Literacy Tips in the Family Garden: Part 1

Spring has sprung, and once again my mind is in the garden. Last April, I wrote a post about ways gardening can help learning and reinforce literacy concepts. This April, I want to plant another seed:

Gardening as a family not only models reading (and writing),
it also creates opportunities for communication and cooperation.

What does that have to do with literacy? A lot, actually. The family in “family gardening” means everyone is involved and shares their ideas:

  • What will we grow: vegetable, flower, herb?
  • What type of garden: indoors or outdoors? containers or raised beds?

You get the idea. Aside from the fun of playing in the dirt together, planning and maintaining a garden is a way to connect with our kids (yes, even teens) in ways that we used to do back when we read picture books. Working side-by-side and without other distractions, the chance for conversation and catching up. 

Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a first-timer, we’ve got tips. Don’t think you have a green thumb? Don’t let that stop you! Your kids just might … plus “perfection” isn’t the goal. It’s all about the journey and the chance to model literacy as central to everyday life.

Step 1: Plant your seed.

Getting buy-in is the first step. For some, the straightforward approach of a family meeting may be the way to go, but it isn’t your only option. Asking questions related to things important to your family is a low-key way to get a conversation started.

  • Is #TacoTuesday a big deal in your house? Then maybe the seed is “let’s grow our own salsa!” 
  • If Halloween is a favorite holiday, then growing pumpkins might be for you.
  • For nature lovers fascinated by hummingbirds and butterflies, wildflowers may be the way to go.
  • Last but not least, don’t forget the fairies!! There are probably caretakers-in-training living under your roof.

literacy garden tip planning

Step 2: Keep talking.

There is always the chance that someone gets so excited that the project keeps getting bigger. Sweating the details now not only makes sure that the project is realistic, but keeps everyone on the same page. 

Garden Tip #1 can help you as you create the plan for your family garden project. The graphic ays out all of the things that you’ll want to discuss and decide on as you get ready to move forward.

No matter what you decide, a little research will be involved. Let’s walk through our salsa example.

  1. Find a recipe that sounds tasty and fits your cooking style (some salsa is canned, other is made fresh).
  2. Identify the ingredients you can grow: cilantro, tomatoes, peppers, etc.
  3. Learn about the planting conditions for the plant to thrive. 
    • Not all tomato varieties can be grown in a container.
    • There are lots of different pepper varieties, with varying levels of “heat.
  4. Compare containers to plant needs.
    • Some plants need a lot of space, others can be planted close together. 
    • Determine quantities to fit your space. 

One thing that I notoriously have overlooked is harvesting times! Invariably, we will be on vacation the week that our tomatoes will reach their peak ripeness. That may be something to consider and/or plan for. 

Part 2 is coming soon, but in the meantime, enjoy these fun board books with your kids.

board book spring

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PLANTING SEEDS by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace.  A sweet story, darling illustrations, and plenty of action make this fun to share together. It is a great choice for either a boy or a girl. Introduces counting, science concepts (how plants grow).

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FARMER’S MARKET DAY by Shanda Trent. Bright and clever illustrations combine with a simple but lovely narrative to create a fun Saturday journey.

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GROW IT! by Georgie Birkett.  A sturdy, colorful introduction to gardening as a toddler helps with planting seeds, weeding, composting, sharing the harvest, and eating. 

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YOU ARE MY BABY: GARDEN by Lorena Siminovich. This unique board book has lovely illustrations – and is plenty durable for the little hands that want to help you turn the page.

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Links to the Full Series Literacy Tips in the Family Garden