Teaching Kids about Gardening- Collecting Seeds from Flowers
Teaching kids about gardening is a great way to get children outdoors and to introduce them to the world of flowers and plants. In this post I’m going to focus on collecting seeds from flowers. This will ensure that you will have fresh seeds to plant in the spring. My son loves helping out in the garden and has really enjoyed collecting seeds from the flowers that we grew this year.
If you’ve been growing flowers, the end of summer and the beginning of fall are the optimal times to collect your seeds for replanting in the coming year. We’ve been growing various annual flowers in our garden for the past 5 years, and with collecting the seeds each year, we never have to buy them.
Collecting seeds is a great way to teach kids about gardening, as they will be able to see how the plant reproduces the seeds from which it was grown. It is also interesting for children to see the wide variation in the shapes and sizes of seeds. They will learn that they don’t necessarily correlate with the shape and size of the plant that is grown! Additionally, it is a great way to begin to look at how seeds are dispersed.
As a mother and a teacher I think that teaching kids about gardening is very important. They will develop a number of important skills as well as an appreciation of nature that will help them in school and throughout their lives! See below for more on what children get from gardening.
My Favourite Flowers for Teaching Kids About Gardening
We like to have a variety of flowers and the following are my favourites for growing with children:
- Nigella (seeds are edible)
- Calendula (Marigolds)
- Scabiosa (Pincushion flowers) – *I wouldn’t eat but not poisonous*
The reasons that these are my favourites are as follow:
- they are edible/child safe
- the seeds and flowers all look very different from one another
- the seeds are easy to collect
- they are easy to grow
- they are good for bees
These are all great flowers to begin growing with your children or your class. They can be grown in small pots (larger pot for the sunflowers) or planted outside. The way that the seeds are collected for each flower is slightly different, so you will have to show the children how to collect each one.
How to Collect Seeds from 6 Easy Flowers to Grow with Children
Nasturtium are great to start with as the seeds are big, visible and it’s easy to tell when they are ready. The seeds will often fall off when they are ready or you could lightly pick them. *They are not ready if you have to really pull them.*
To collect sunflower seeds, wait until the petals start to dry and fall off and the stem turns yellow or brown. The seeds should be starting to become loose. Then you can cut the head off the stem, brush off the loose bits and rub the seeds, allowing them to fall out. It’s easiest if you do this over a big bowl, which provides a great opportunity for young children to sort!! They will need to sort the black seeds from the white ones (not ready) the other bits that have fallen off the plant. Lastly, you will want to dry the seeds before you store them for planting in the coming year. You may wan to see my post about Growing Sunflowers with Children (Coming soon).
I think cornflowers are really fun and satisfying to collect. When the flower petals have dried up and fallen off, the head should turn brown. Then you can squeeze it and the seeds should just pop out. My three year old loves this!
Nigella are great fun for children to collect! After the petals drop off a ball forms on the top with the seeds inside (it looks a bit like a rattle). Wait until this dries up and turns brown, at which time you can pick it and either shake the seeds out or open it up and take them out (they should be black). Most children prefer the first method!
Calendula (aka Marigold) are pretty straightforward to collect but you have to know what you are looking for as the seeds can look like dead bits of the plant. Once the flower has dropped off, the top of the stem will turn brown and the seeds will be revealed. They are brown and curled.
Scabiosa (aka Pincushion flowers) are also easy to collect. Once the flower petals have dropped off a little green ball will form. Slowly it will turn brown and then it will be possible to rub it and the seeds should fall off in your hand. If they don’t come off easily they aren’t quite ready yet.
What you need
- Flowers that have gone to seed
- Small containers to put seeds in
- Large Bowl
Questions to Ask
- Show me how you collect the seeds…
- What do you notice about these seeds? How are they similar / different from other seeds?
- What flower do you think grows from this seed? Why do you think that?
What they get from it
This is a lovely hands-on activity that can inspire the enjoyment of gardening. It teaches children to see which seeds come from which types of plants. It will also allow them to begin to develop an awareness of the diversity in seeds and in plants. By examining seeds and learning how to collect them, it also prepares the children begin to think about seed dispersal.
Teaching kids about gardening is a great way to help them develop a number of important life skills. Generally, when children participate in gardening and grow their own food, they are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables (Bell & Dyment, 2008). They will have the opportunity to expand their understanding and to better communicate about their knowledge of the world, as well as to develop their ability to communicate and manage their emotions. Furthermore it helps children to develop self-confidence and initiative, as well as science, maths and literacy skills. This all helps them to be more successful in school and in the wider world (Miller, 2007). Children who participate in gardening tend to have improved attitudes towards education and also improved achievement in science (Klemmer, Waliczek, & Zajicek, 2005).
Take it further – Teaching Kids about Gardening
We will do future posts on gardening throughout the year including planting the seeds we gathered.
The autumn is also a nice time to plants bulbs. Please see my post on Planting Bulbs with Children.
Children can also look at how plants can be grown from cuttings. Please see my post on growing plants from cuttings (coming soon).
Bell, A. C. & Dyment, J. E. (2008). Grounds for health: The intersection of green school grounds and health-promoting schools. Environmental Education Research, 14(1): 77-90.
Klemmer, C. D., Waliczek, T. M., & Zajicek, J. M. (2005). Growing minds: The effect of a school gardening program on the science achievement of elementary students.HortTechnology 15(3): 448-452.
Miller, D. (2007) The Seeds of Learning: Young Children Develop Important Skills Through Their Gardening Activities at a Midwestern Early Education Program, Applied Environmental Education & Communication, 6:1, 49-66.