Getting Children Interested in Gardening

Hopefully spring will arrive soon and put an end to this awful winter. Spring is the perfect time to start thinking about creating a garden with your kids.

Gardening is a fantastic activity for children; they can make a mess, they learn about nature and food, and it’s a fun, healthy activity. There are even some studies that suggest kids who garden eat more fruits and vegetables than kids who don’t, so anything that will get kids eating their vegetable has got to be a good thing.

Since there are so many great reasons to give your kids a little patch of land or a few gardening containers and see what they will do with it, we have created a gardening guide for parents and kids featuring everything you need to know to become the best gardeners in the world. Well actually not the best gardeners in the world, but we have found lots of fun stuff to help get you started.

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How to get started

When starting out you don’t need to get too fancy or ambitious with your garden. Here is a basic plan to get things moving:

  1. If you are lucky enough to have a bit of extra space in your backyard, give your child their own space. If you don’t have a backyard you can easily use containers. My kid testers have just used planting containers for the last few years and they work perfectly.
  2. Let kids choose what they want to grow so they will be more invested in the process. Most gardening stores have seed packages that are marketed to kids that contain seed for fruits or vegetables that are fast growing and appealing for children. Some of the best picks are: peas, beans, strawberries, carrots, lettuce, and cherry tomatoes.
  3. Once kids have chosen what they will be growing, they should take a bit of time to learn about when the right time of the season is to plant each vegetable, fruit, or flower. Most kids/adults will want to plant whatever seeds you have bought immediately (guilty!) and not bother reading the packets about when and where the seeds should be planted.
  4. Have them prepare the soil for planting.  Kids love playing the dirt and will have a great time getting the soil ready for planting.
  5. Don’t let them forget to water their gardens and monitor what is happening. There is something very satisfying about growing something from a seed that you will ultimately be able to eat. This is particularly true for children.

Gardening Kits and Tools for Kids

There are some unbelievably cute gardening kits and equipment around that are specifically designed for kids. The kits with the metal tools are worth getting even if you are paying a bit more.  Generally metal tools are better quality and feel much more like ‘real’ gardening equipment to kids.

  • Kids garden Tool set with Tote is a cute set for younger kids (ages 2-5). It is a good quality set that has tools with colourful metal ends and wooden handles. It also has a tote bag with lots of handy pockets.
  • Let’s Get Started Gardening Kit is a set that is a little different. It’s cool because not only does it have all the basic tools, it also includes a couple of garden bib aprons and gardening gloves (one apron/set of gloves for the parent and one for the child), a gardening tips booklet and also stickers and stakes. This company offers a couple of other versions of this set, one is for grandmothers and grandchildren called Grammy Let’s Get Started Gardening Kit and the other one has a hip apron rather than a bib apron and that one is called the HIP-Ster Gardening Kit.
  • Gardener In Training Deluxe Garden Kit is another fun set that is good for kids 4 through 8 years old. It includes two ducky handled gardening tools, an embroidered apron with pockets and gardening gloves. The tools are metal with plastic handles.
  • Toysmith Kid’s Big Tool Set is a set that has child size versions of real rakes, spade, hoe and a leaf rake. Most reviewers for this set suggest that it is most suited for kids ages 5-7 since it has sharp edges so kids will need to be supervised when using.
  • Radio Flyer Kid’s Wheelbarrow your kids will find any number of uses for a wheel barrow, even if they don’t stick with gardening. This particular wheelbarrow is quite small so it’s good for kids under 5.  It is solid wood handles, a metal bucket and the front tire is plastic.

Gardening Books for Kids

If you would like a bit of guidance to help get your kids started there are a lot of gardening books to choose from with fun ideas and projects that kids will love. Here are a few of the most popular ones:

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  • The Ultimate Step-by-Step Kids’ First Gardening Book is a wonderful book that has more than 150 projects suitable for kids from 5 to 12.  An introduction covers all the basics, and eight hands-on project. It also has tips and advice on other topics like edible treats, flower, fun craft projects, wildlife gardening and indoor gardening.
  • The Book of Gardening Projects for Kids focuses on how parents who already love to garden can help get their kids involved in a family garden. This book is a step-by-step guide that has practical gardening advice, including how to design a play-friendly garden, how to create a theme gardens, and how to cook and preserve what you have grown in the garden.
  • Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots by Sharon Lovejoy who is one of the best know gardening writer for kids is a neat book that has 12 ideas for theme gardens that parents and kids can grow together. Each garden includes a plan, the planting recipe — seeds, seedlings, and growing instructions spelled out step-by-step. It also has a chapter on gardening basics includes a child-friendly 10-Minute Plan for planting and maintenance, plus a list of the top 20 plants guaranteed to make gardeners out of kids.
  • Project Garden is another great book for parents who are trying to get kids involved in creating a family garden. It has simple projects that will get a garden growing at any time of year. There is advice on how to grow practical gardens that work in any space, as well as information on how to plant flowers gardens and vegetable gardens.

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Gardening Apps

An app isn’t really something that comes to mind when thinking about gardening, but I came across this gardening app called Plants HD, that is fun and informative for anyone who wants to learn more about plants.

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This educational app has interactive content about plants and their lifecycle. The app provides an in-depth look into topics such as seeds, germination, pollination, flowers, trees, fruits, and dispersal. It also has a quiz and game and photos on the various topics.

 

There are lots of ways to get kids gardening; it’s a fun and rewarding activity that is well worth the effort.  If you have any gardening tips for kids please leave them in the comments.

 

photo credit: evoo73 via photopin cc

photo credit: jaygooby via photopin cc

The Best Resources to Teach Children Chess

There are many reasons to teach children chess, some of the reported benefits include helping to improve visual memory, attention span, spatial-reasoning ability, critical thinking skills, math and reading skills.  There are even some studies that suggest playing chess can help increase a child’s IQ.

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There are lots of different ways to get kids interested in chess, so we have included links to the best websites, apps, books, sets and online videos that will help parents find the best ways to teach their own kids how to play.

*For very young children who are just beginning to learn a lot of people recommend teaching just one piece at a time. A good explanation on how to do this is here.

Chess Websites /Online Chess Courses for Kids

  • Chess Kid is the #1 chess site for kids. It has some free content that you are able to access if you sign up for a free account. There is also an option to upgrade to a gold membership that gives you greater access to videos and some of the other playing options on the site.  They have a few different pricing options, the basic is for 1 kid for one month for $7.99 or $49.99 a year,  up to 3 kids for $99.99 a year.
  • Chess Kids has some free online lessons for kids and has a feature that allows kids to play against the computer. This site also has as lots chess resources for parents and kids including videos.

Chess Apps for Kids

Most kids love playing against a computer once they have mastered the basics of chess. There are a number of apps that offer great introductions with fun tutorials, as well as the opportunity to play against the computer.

  • Chess Academy for Kids is designed to teach children chess in a step-by-step way, where they can learn as well as practice. This app is good for older children aged 8+ to teach themselves the rules and basic strategies of chess, as well as for younger children aged 5+ to learn chess with adult help. This app has tutorials and a game mode.
  • Dinosaur Chess: Learn to Play! is another app designed specifically for kids to learn how to play chess.  This app has 11 interactive lessons as well as 20 mini games and puzzles all with a dinosaur theme.
  • Newbie Chess isn’t designed for kids but it is a good beginner chess app that is okay for kids to use. This app has lots of graphical effects that make it easy for new players to understand game rules and tactics.
  • t Chess Lite  is another chess app that isn’t designed for kids but it is fun and easy for any beginner to use.
  • Chess Invaders is a game where alien forces are invading the galaxy and the player must defend the galaxy where everything behaves according to the rules of chess. The player has to move pieces according to their chess movement rules, so kids will learn the rules of chess while playing a fun game.
  • Shredder Chess Lite if you are looking for something a little more serious you can try Shredder. It’s one of the most successful chess apps with lots of features for the serious player.

Beginner Chess Books for Kids

It is useful to have a reference book for kids who are learning chess so they can read about the various pieces and learn rules and strategies. There are quite a lot of children’s chess books, these are some of the most popular and best reviewed:

  • Chess for Children: How to Play the World’s Most Popular Board Game by Murray Chandler teaches kids the basic moves of chess and it explains all the rules in step by step manner. The game is taught through a cartoon character, George, and his pet alligator, Kirsty, a self-proclaimed Grand Alligator of Chess.  Murray Chandler has a few other very popular chess books including Chess Tactics for Kids, Chess Puzzles and How to Beat Your Dad at Chess, but if you are looking for a great beginner chess book Chess for Children is the one to get.
  • Chess for Kids by Michael Basman is another very good book to help make chess understandable to children  Like most other DK books the pictures are very good, the text is simple, and the information is arranged in such a way that so kids can easily refer to the book as they play.  It covers all the basic information that kids need to know about chess including the history and detailed information about each of the pieces.
  • Checkmate!: My First Chess Book  by Garry Kasparov is another very popular choice as an excellent book for beginners. It covers the basics, the pieces and their moves, notation, winning and drawing, etc.
  • Chess is Child’s Play: Teaching Techniques That Work by Laura Sherman and Bill Kilpatrick is a book specifically written for parents who are trying to teach their kids chess. This  book has a step-by-step method for teaching chess to children. This book is especially good for parents who don’t know how to play chess themselves because it teaches the parent the game while showing how to teach your children.

Chess Sets for Kids

If you already have a chess set there is no reason to buy any special type of set, but if you are having a bit of trouble getting your kids interested in chess and are looking for a cool set that might help spark an interest in chess, or you are just looking for a good beginner set, you could try some of the following sets that are easy and fun for kids to use:

  • No Stress Chess is a neat way to approach chess for a beginner. This chess set uses cards that tell you which piece to move. Once you become comfortable with the moves and what each chess piece can do, then you can flip the two-sided board over and play regular chess. This set includes rules for two variations of playing using the action cards, and all the necessary rules for standard chess. This game is great for anyone who might be a little intimidated by learning chess.
  • ThinkFun Solitaire Chess is another fun game that is a different approach to learning chess for a beginner. This game is more of a puzzle game than a chess set, but it is an easy way to help kids learn the rules of chess. The game has one set of pieces that lets the player use the movement of chess pieces to clear the entire board. There 60 puzzles that include levels for easy, medium and hard.
  • Science Wiz Chess Once A Pawn A Time  is a fun beginner chess set that is great for young kids. The instructions books are entertaining and easy to understand and written in a style that is more storybook that instruction book.
  • Super Mario Chess  would obviously be a good option for any child who is a Mario fan. The set is a little pricey, but it’s a nice set with great reviews so it would be fun if your kids are into Mario and you would like them to learn chess.
  • LEGO Kingdoms Set Chess Set  is another pricey set but would be a good way to help encourage a child who loves LEGO to learn chess.

Teaching Kids Chess Videos

Chess Kid has a great introductory video that will help your kids play chess

This video is a good overview of chess done by Archie Jennings and his eight year old son.

 

Hopefully you found something that will help you teach your kids chess, if you have any resources that you have used and really like let us know in the comments below.

photo credit: jessamyn via photopin

Teaching Kids how to Knit

There are a couple of different ways to go about teaching kids to knit. If you would like to teach younger kids you might want to start off with French or finger knitting because they are much easier than regular and can help with building up confidence. Then when that has been mastered, you can give knitting with needles a try. With that in mind, here is our guide on how to teach kids to knit.

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French Knitting using a Knitting Nancy

A Knitting Nancy (also called a Ned,Spool,Tower or a Knobby) is a great device for children because teaches the essentials but it is much easier than needles for small hands to use because it holds the child’s stitches while their fingers can move the yarn.

MamaMoontime has instructions on how to make your own Knitting Nancy out of a tree branch and how to use it.

Or if you aren’t quite up to a DIY project you can buy a Nancy along the lines of these guys:

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You often see version of knitting Nancys in toy stores in the craft section. It may take a little bit of time for a child to used get to using a Nancy, but they are generally very child friendly.

A Clover Wonder Knitter makes working with yarn easy for kids and it comes with a 3 and 6 pin removable head. Most kids love that it isn’t complicated and is very easy to use.

Finger Knitting

If French knitting isn’t something that your child wants to do, maybe give Finger Knitting a try, all you need is some wool and your … (can you guess?) fingers! It’s very easy for small kids and lots of fun once you get the hang of it. The easiest way to learn is to watch someone doing it, so here are some good instructional online videos:


Knitting (with Needles)

Okay here we go, now we are getting down to some serious business. If you are teaching a younger child (ages 7-10) you will want to use smaller needles, try to get a size 7 or 8 that are wooden or bamboo because the yarn can slip off the metal needles. You will also want to start off with a good quality thick wool or acrylic yarn so it is easier for kids for kids to hold.
One of the best series that we came across for teaching kids is called No-Rules Knitting at the Teen Knit Cafe. It’s a lot of fun and super clear with the instructions. It’s supposed to be for teens but we think it’s good for all ages. You can check out full DVD or some of the online videos that have been posted.

There are also some kits you can check out that are bright and colourful and might help get kids excited about learning. One you may want to consider is the Alex Chunky and Funky Scarf Beginner’s Kit in Box, it has crazy wide needles that look pretty cool. They also offer a few videos that show some basic techniques that are useful and simple for kids to follow even if you don’t get this kit.


The Best Books and DVDs for Kids

  •  Kids Knitting: Projects for Kids of all Ages by Melanie Falick is a book that teaches kids of all ages using straightforward language, step-by-step instructions, and bright illustrations. Kids will learn all the basics, including finer knitting, casting on and binding in the round and shaping.
  • DVD The Art of Knitting 4 Kids Kit for ages 5+ that has three different options for teaching kids. There is a promo video you can check out that explains it all. This set is very well reviewed.