Seed Sprouting … With Kids!
We do most of our January gardening indoors, in an armchair browsing seed catalogs, online and not. Otherwise, it’s taking care of the plants we grow inside and sketching plans for our outdoor gardens and landscapes. It’s still too early to start seeds for outdoor planting but, on an ambitious day, we start assembling the items we’ll need: pots and flats, growing medium, heat mat, and whatever else we’ll want come February.
All that doesn’t mean we’re not growing things to make our winters meals both tasty and healthy. We’re sprouting seed! Beans, peas, grasses (wheat, alfalfa, clover), even peanuts. And mostly we’re leaving the work for others anxious to do it… the kids! Nothing gets children involved in growing things more quickly than sprouting. The results begin happening in days, right there to be seen in the sprouting jar. None of this waiting a week or more to get something poking out of the soil. In the time it takes to see results from a seed planted in soil, we’re eating fresh sprouts.
We’ve talked about growing your own sprouts in previous posts and most everybody knows how to do it. The basics are pretty much true for every kind of seed you’ll sprout: soaking the seeds in water, often overnight, to awaken them; rinsing them at least two or three times a day, putting them in a sunny window once their on their way to allow them to develop nutritious chlorophyll, then — best of all — eating them. There are a number of sprouting supplies you can use, the simplest being steel or plastic screens to put on the top of your sprouting jar to facilitate easy rinsing. And you can buy complete kits to make it even easier. The kinds of seeds to sprout? The list (scroll down) goes on and on.
Getting your kids involved is the easy part. Teaching them the process as you work together on that first batch of sprouts is the place to start. Once they know how it’s done, it’s time to turn the process over to them; letting them measure out a teaspoon of dry seed into the sprouting jar, letting them soak and rinse seeds on their own once their comfortable with the process, letting them harvest. Keep them engaged by asking them to help choose seeds for sprouting. Learn with them to identify the different seeds — alfalfa, mung bean, sunflower, wheat — as they go along. Give them responsibility as you teach them biology.
Your older sprouters can get into an important part of the scientific process — observation and record-keeping — with simple journal entries that record when seeds were soaked and for how long, when they first showed signs of life, and when they were harvested. Larger seeds make it easy to identify the parts of the seed — seed coat, embryo, cotyledon — and kids should be encouraged to sketch the parts they see in their journal. Journal keeping can become the basis of larger science projects.
All of this will prepare your young gardeners for the day when you’ll be starting seeds indoors for later transplanting outside. They’ll know what’s going on under the soil, and they’ll anticipate the results.
Sprouting seeds can be the beginning of continued activities; namely cooking and serving the sprouts in meals. Sit down with your child and let them show off their computer search skills as they look for recipes that include particular types of sprouts. These could include simple additions to salads or involve stir-frying (make sure the activity is age appropriate for your young learner. Safety is always the first consideration). Recipes? There are lots.
Sprouting is a great way to get through those months the outdoor garden is asleep. Did we mention that kids are more likely to eat things, like sprouts, they grow themselves? And that suggests another science project: what makes them so healthy?
Recommended Product Categories: