The Benefits of Gardening and Planting Bulbs for Kids
We will look at the benefits of gardening for children and the best planting bulbs for kids. Planting bulbs with children is a great way to help them learn what a plant needs to grow and about gardening. In England, learning about seeds and bulbs is part of the national curriculum in KS1 (Children aged 5-7). However, children younger and older can all benefit from gardening including having hands-on experiences planting bulbs. It is a great way for them to learn about the life cycle of plants and to see how bulbs develop into plants.
Planting bulbs with children can also help them begin to see what bulbs and seeds need to begin to grow- moisture/water, air, warmth. Then see what plants need to continue to grow and stay healthy –water, air, warmth and light. *Note- it’s a common misconception that seeds and bulbs need soil to grow (though they do need things that soil can provide– nutrients, oxygen, protection). When children have first-hand experience with plants, whether it is in the classroom or in the garden, they perform better in maths, English and Science. You can see more details about the research in my post on the Best Plants for Classrooms.
It can also be beneficial to have children help grow some bulbs in the classroom. This is a good way to bring outdoor learning indoors. It’s also a great place to start if you are just beginning to garden with children.
The Best Bulbs for Kids
If you have babies or children that tend to eat plants from your garden / put anything they find in their mouth, you may prefer to plant non-toxic flowers whenever possible. The best flower bulbs for children to plant include Muscari (Grape Hyacinth), Crocosmia and Alliums because they are non-toxic. Alliums come in a large range of sizes and colours so I recommend looking into the many options. There are also a number of varieties that are edible (see below). You may be tempted to plant daffodils with children but they are poisonous – therefore I would only plant with older/sensible children.
The best edible bulbs to grow with children are primarily alliums. These include onions, shallots, chives and garlic (including elephant garlic). Alliums are also good companion plants – plants that help and benefit other plants in your garden. They are good at keeping aphids away so I like planting them with my roses. They are also good for bees which is another great reason to have them in your garden.
Different bulbs need to be planted at different times of the year so check when they are meant to be planted. Many alliums are meant to be planted in the autumn and then flower in the spring/summer.
*Pro-tip: Remember that with garlic bulbs you don’t plant the whole bulb. Break it apart into the peices and then plant seperately.
Questions to ask
- What do you notice about the bulb?
- How has it changed?
- What does a bulb need to grow?
- What does a plant need to grow? How could we check this?
What they get from it
Research continues to demonstrate multiple benefits to gardening for health and well being (in addition to opportunities to learn). A meta-analysis on the benefits of gardening by Soga, et al., 2017 found that gardening helped with many different health benefits including reducing anxiety and depression and improvement in body mass index. Gardening has also been found to improve quality of life, satisfaction in life and people’s sense of community (Soga, et al., 2017; Schmutz et al, 2014).
Children who garden and grow their food are more likely than their peers to eat fruit and vegetables (Bell & Dement, 2008; Libman, 2007). They also tend to have a better knowledge of nutrition (Koch, Waliczek, & Kajicek, 2006) and are more likely to eat more nutritious food throughout their lives (Morris & Zidenberg-Cherr, 2002).
Children involved in growing plants also perform better in school. See my post on the Best Plants for Classrooms.
In addition, digging in the garden is great for building children’s upper body strength. This is a great gross motor activity that will help children build muscles to help prepare them to write.
Take it further
You may also want to see my post on collecting seeds from flowers.
You could have children examine the bulbs by cutting them open and looking inside. *Remember to think about the best bulbs for kids in terms of their toxicity when doing this.
Grow a bulb and large glass with just water (e.g. hyacinth). This can help children see how plants grown from bulbs and also learn what they need to grow and live.
Have children come up with an experiment to test and see what bulbs need to grow. I’ve done this before and together we came up with places that lacked light -closet; lacked warmth (and light)- refrigerator or freezer; lacked soil – grow in cup with pebbles or cotton wool; lacked moisture – dry soil or dry cotton wool, etc. See what happens to the bulbs when they are each grown in these different environments to predict and test which factors are essential for a bulb to begin to grow.
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.
Koch, S., Waliczek, T. M., & Zajicek, J. M. (2006). The effect of a summer garden program on the nutritional knowledge, attitudes, and behaviours of children. Hort- Technology 16(4): 620-625.
Libman, K. (2007). Growing youth growing food: How vegetable gardening influences young people’s food consciousness and eating habits. Applied Environmental Education & Communication 6(1): 87-95.
Morris, J. L., Neustadter, A., & Zidenberg-Cherr, S. (2001). First-grade gardeners are more likely to taste vegetables. California Agriculture, 55(1), 43-46.
Soga, M., Gaston, K., J., Yamaura, Y. (2017). Gardening is beneficial for health: A meta-analysis. Preventative Medicine Reports, 5, 92-99.
Schmutz, et al. (2014). The benefits of gardening and food growing for health and wellbeing.