Ministry of Education, Guyana

Explore Plants With Your Five Year Old

Young children love to explore living things, including plants. Although plants don’t move or interact the same way animals do, they can still ignite your child’s curiosity — especially when you join them in carefully observing the tiny grasses, tall trees and colorful flowers in the world around you.

The types of plants you and your child investigate will depend on your location and whether you live in a rural, suburban or urban area — but plants are everywhere. Look for flowering plants like squash, tomatoes and grasses as well as nonflowering plants like pine. And don’t forget weeds! Weeds are not specific plants but simply any plants a gardener doesn’t want.  The wonderful thing about weeds is that nobody will mind if you and your child dig them up! Five-year-olds are gaining a deeper understanding of plants as living things that grow and develop, have needs and depend on an environment that meets their needs. They realize that all plants have parts and that these parts may vary from plant to plant. They also know that many other living things depend on plants. As you and your child explore, talk together about your observations and ideas about how plants grow and what they need. Outdoors, look and listen for the insects, birds and other animals that make their homes in, on and around plants. Although very few plants are dangerous, some could make your child sick. Make sure to avoid these plants.

Explore Plants With Your Child

Make and Use a Science Notebook
A science notebook is a place where your child can draw and write — with your help — about his plant explorations. Help your child make a simple science notebook by stapling 10-15 pieces of paper together and decorating the cover. Let him know that the notebook is his to use for drawing pictures of the plants he finds and for recording his questions, observations and ideas about plants. Keep the notebook handy so he can find it easily and encourage him to use it and show it to other family members.

Investigate Plants Outdoors
When you explore plants outdoors with your child, she can observe plants in their natural environments and learn more about their characteristics and needs. Gather some drawing and writing materials and help your child choose some outdoor plants to investigate. Look at, feel and smell the stems, leaves, flowers and other parts. How are the plants the same and different? Notice the area where the plants are growing. How dry or moist is the soil? How sunny or shady is it? What kinds of animals do you see or hear in the area? Encourage your child to draw one or two of the plants and where they are growing.

Take Care of a Houseplant
Your child may enjoy having a houseplant of her own to take care of. Consider growing one together from seed, giving her a plant on a special occasion (nothing too expensive!) or asking a family gardener to donate one. Help her research the plant’s needs in a gardening book or on a website like Better Homes and Gardens’ Caring for Houseplants. Things to consider include: How much water will it need? Should it be in a bright sunny spot or in a more protected spot? Does it prefer warmer or cooler temperatures? If you have another houseplant, ask her to compare the plants. How are the needs of the plants the same and different?

Play “Plant Parts That We Eat”
Mealtime is an opportunity to think about the parts of plants you eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner or snacks. Play a game with your child and have her guess if different vegetables come from the leaves, stems, flowers, roots or seeds of a plant. Think about how the vegetables look and what you know about different plant parts. What part of the plant do you think lettuce comes from? What about broccoli and cauliflower? What about carrots and potatoes? What about celery? Have fun guessing and sharing your ideas! If you and your child are curious, check out The Vegetables We Eat and The Fruits We Eat by Gail Gibbons. These books are aimed at older children, but your child will enjoy talking about the images with you.

Plant Bean Seeds and Make Predictions
When you plant seeds with your child, he can observe how plants grow and develop. Bean seeds are easy to handle and sprout quickly — soaking them overnight in wet paper towels will speed up the process! Help your child poke small holes in the bottom of three or four cups and fill them with soil. Push a bean seed into each cup — about 1 inch under the soil — and moisten it. Place the cups where your child can water them every day. Once the leaves appear they will need sun. Invite your child to make and record predictions. What kind of plant will grow from the bean seed? You should see growth in five to ten days. Encourage your child to observe the growing beans over time. When do the leaves appear? How do they grow and change from day to day? When they outgrow the cups, transplant them outdoors or into larger pots. Put dowels or sticks into the soil and tie the plants up with string or twist ties. Read and talk about books like One Bean by Anne Rockwell or One Little Bean by Cecil Kim.

Record Plant Growth Over Time
When you and your child take care of plants over time, you can observe how they grow and develop into adult plants. You can also measure and record their growth with a ruler or tape measure. Help your child measure the height of her bean plants every three or four days. Talk about how much the plant has grown. Are all of the plants growing the same way? To extend this activity, tape a strip of paper to the wall and measure your child’s height over time. Is she growing as fast as the plants?

Collect Seeds from Fruits
Invite your child to collect seeds from watermelons, tomatoes, avocados, pumpkins, cucumbers and any other fruits your family eats. Which fruits have the most seeds? Which fruits have the least? How do you know? Encourage your child to record his observations about fruits and seeds. To learn further, encourage your child to experiment with planting some of the seeds to see what happens.

Plant Bean Seeds in Water
You and your child can sprout bean seeds without soil — dried peas or lima beans work well — and observe the roots and stems emerge! Fold five or six sheets of paper towel and roll them so the roll fits tightly into a clear plastic cup. Place four or five bean seeds between the towel and the cup, about halfway between the top and bottom. Pour 1-2 inches of water into the cup — so the towel gets soaked but no extra water remains at the bottom — and place the cup where you can observe it. Keep the towel very moist and check the seeds frequently for signs of growth. Which part emerges first? Second? Third? Were you surprised? Why or why not?

Investigate a Tree and Its Inhabitants
Do you have a favorite tree in your yard, neighborhood or local park? Look and listen for insects, birds and other animals in, on and around the tree. Talk with your child about what you find. Is an animal climbing in the tree? Flying around the tree? Crawling on the tree? Wonder together about questions like Why do you think that animal stays so close to the tree? and How does the tree help it? To explore further, read and talk about a book like The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein and have a conversation about how trees help people and other animals. How do people get food from trees? Stay cool under trees? Use wood from trees?

Grow Plants From Leftovers
Experiment with sprouting plants from leftover lettuce and carrots and help your child discover how plants can grow without seeds! Place the bottom of a bunch of romaine — the part you would normally throw away — in a shallow container of water with the end in the water. Put it in a sunny window and change the water every day. Wait for it to sprout in five to seven days. Or try cutting the top off a carrot — make sure it has some green at the top — in a saucer of water. You will not get carrots from this plant, but you should get some bushy greenery!

Go Pumpkin Picking
You can support your child’s explorations of where food comes from by making a family field trip to a pumpkin patch or pick-your-own farm. As you pick, encourage your child to notice variation in plants. How are the trees or plants the same or can we see some differences? How do fruits from different kinds of plants look the same or different?

Read All About Plants
You can use books to spark conversations with your child about plants. Take a trip to the library and check out these picture books with colorful illustrations of plants and families planting together, like Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert, The Ugly Vegetables by Grace Lin and Flower Garden and The Sunflower House by Eve Bunting. Browse gardening books with large photos of different kinds of plants. How are these plants the same as or different from the ones in our family’s garden?


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