Watching seeds grow with small children can be particularly enlightening for them. Some kids just don’t get to see the start of life, or understand what that means. Some good things to do are sprout seeds in baggies or grow them so they can be taken home.
Scaling up to make this cost effective can be challenging. Sprouting seeds in bags is definitely cheap, but in my experience, leads to lots of tears and disappointment as the plants out grow their ziploc baggies and really can’t be transplanted.
This image came from The Artful Child. (Homeschooling parents with preschoolers following along – check this one out!)
Here’s a great little activity that works this way. The major plus to the ziploc(tm) baggie method is that you can see the roots grow, which might be complicated to show otherwise. (Want to try to show them? Use a plant gel or those flower pearls that everyone was buzzing about a couple years back).
Luckily, there are other ways that range from cheap to free to make these plants so that kids can take them home! Yay!
I used little Jiffy Peat Pellets. I had a local garden store that sold them one at a time for less than a dime a piece. What’s awesome about these is that the peat absorbs a ton of water, and they can stand alone (without a pot) because basically, they are a little biodegradable mesh bag full of peat. The mesh bag keeps the peat/soil from spilling all over the place if a tray of these gets knocked over by overzealous elementary students (sure, ask me if that’s been tested…).
Once they are as big as you want (or its Mother’s Day, or Valentine’s Day, or time for the herb sale, whatever) you can just drop them in a Dixie cup or Paper Pot (which can be a nice craft project in itself).
HelloGiggles also has some great ideas on how to repurpose materials for this type of growing project, including plastic bottles, toliet paper tubes, and eggshells. Go check out their ideas, too!
The biggest pitfall: overwatering. Kids are zealous overwaterers and no one wants what happens to poor little overwatered seedlings. that’s anothe reason I like the peat pots. I stand them all up in a tray and only water the tray.