This week we have set ourselves a little project to paint some terracotta pots that we have bought and plants some seeds for herbs and strawberries. I wanted to break this down to show how one project can cross so many activities, subjects, discussions and interests. Also how both my 2 and 4.5yr old are learning different things from the same project. This project idea sparked from, as many do the enquiring and creative mind of my 4.5yr old. He asked if we could grow something and I was surely open to that.
Firstly we have gone on a shopping trip to buy what we need. (Generally if I have the time I will try and source things second hand or try to make things as sustainable and cost effective as possible). So we put together a list: (O isn’t writing as yet so I write the list with his guidance and input.) When doing things like this I always ask if he knows how to spell a word? or things like “what letter does he think peppermint would start with?” to keep him engaged and co creating as much as possible.
*Seeds, 8 pots, 8 pot dishes, soil, watering cans, spades. (we have our arts supplies of paint brushes ect at home so we don’t need to purchase these)
When we get to the shop we find the pots, I get him to count them as I put them in the trolley. His sister joins in. I ask him a few questions like “ok so far we have 5 pots in the trolley in order to get 8 how many more will we need?” He counts up and replies 3! Awesome a pressure free maths lessons right there! These things are not preconcieved but seem to spontaneously happen, organically the questions, answers and knowledge seems to flow.
We continue to collect everything on our list, letting the kids be as hands on as possible as this is their project. We collect everything and manage to get ourselves and our bits and bobs into the car and home.
When we get home I put my youngest down for her afternoon nap. I then set O up with his paint, brushes and the pots and tell him to decorate the pots anyway he chooses. After doing one he asks if I would join him and help him with painting some of the pots. I sit with him and start on one. Then he asks of help to paint a galaxy. I tell him ok lets do it together. I ask him to paint the pot black and after it drys I will paint some planets and we can paint some stars together. So we do. We do lots of different patterns and O is getting very confident in mixing colours and experimenting with making different shades, depths and layers. We continue to paint and make each pot unique and different.
After my daughter wakes up from her nap we check the pots and they are dry so we decide to get our potting mix, tools, seeds and watering cans out so that we can plant the seeds. All 3 of us each grab a pot and start to fill them up. Lil A loves any excuse to get dirty but I am noticing how well she is digging the soil and then placing in the pot. It’s so interesting to see how much she learns and absorbs from her older brother by just watching and mimicking what he does.We fill all the pots up. I had written down the names of the herbs on paddle pop sticks and laid them all one the floor and all the seed packets next to them, in no particular order. I then asked O to pick a packet of seeds and try to find the corresponding paddle pop stick. So after he matched correctly he could open the packet, pop the seeds in, cover them, water the soil and then place the paddle pop stick in so we can remember which pot is which. He goes and does this for each of the packets until he is done. Meanwhile I am showing Miss A how to use the watering can and she is having a ball adding extra water to the seedlings. We all then help to pack away and clean up all the mess we have made.
The next day I sit down with O and chat about our project. We are both curious to see which seeds will sprout first. I ask him if he thinks it would be a good idea if we track there progress over the next 4 weeks? He is pretty happy with that idea so we do up a very basic little chart and plan to track and monitor the progress of the seeds. He already has the responsibility of watering them but now he can take special note of any changes while he does. O then asked if he could take photos of the pots this week and then also on the following weeks to keep a visual log as well. I thought it was a great idea and gave him my phone to do so. On the back of the chart I drew up for him he also practiced spelling some of the herb names. He is a perfectionist and so I try not to push with his writing as he always thinks its not “neat” enough, or ‘good’ enough. I always tell him it takes practice and just try to encourage him to write words here and there as long periods seem to get stressful and distressing. He is only 4.5 and can spell some basic words but I can see the pressure he puts on himself already, I certainly don’t want to exaserbate that so I find sometimes it’s better to give them space to come to things in their own time. When the readiness and willingness is there. I just try and create the space and opportunity for the learning to occur when they are ready to take it on.
So that is that, we will keep an eye, water and tend to our little baby seeds for the time being. We will also monitor and record whatever happens and put together a little poster of our findings at the end. But I hope you can see how when a child has an inquiry or interest in something that you can extend on that, in your everyday life and they can learn across many different subjects from one small project. I feel like things like this, pop up all the time in life and we just allow space and encourage the kids to follow and find out the answers to their own questions. They can express their learning in creative and artistic ways, psychical skills, literacy and numeracy skills and also fostering a connection to life and the earth while learning without pressure. Meanwhile we are learning and growing as a family and individuals, side by side in a loving and nurturing environment.
Hope this inspires you with a little project of your own! Learning can come from any interaction, any interest, any moment all you have to do is tap into it. Let the child guide you x
blessings to all