As part of our garden week the kids and I took a trip to one of our local nurseries. There are several nurseries in our area, ranging from a small, no-frills native nursery to large cafe-designer-lifestyle nurseries. I opted for a larger nursery because of stroller accessibility and the availability of toilets! There are many reasons why a nursery trip is great for kids. For starters it’s free. And considering seedlings start at tiny prices it’s still a low cost trip even if everyone chooses a small plant! Visiting a nursery doesn’t replace getting out in nature and discovering plants in their natural habitat. However, it is a great way for kids to explore a large number of species in a relatively small area. A nursery can provide a rich, green, learning environment in an urban setting. Here are some ideas for getting the most out of a trip to your local nursery with young kids…
1. Colour: For very young children simply point out colours. “I can see a yellow flower here. Yellow. Can you see the yellow flower?” Toddlers can choose their “own” colour for the trip, and count how many times they see their colour. Older kids might like to race to find the colours of the rainbow. Can they find something red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet all naturally occurring?
2. Shape: Children often draw such stylised flowers and I have to wonder if it’s because they have seen more drawings of flowers than they have real ones! Real flowers come in a wide variety of shapes. Look how completely different the flowers in the two photographs above are for example. The leaves are entirely different shapes too. We sometimes reduce the concept of shape to only mean triangles, circles and squares. What words can you use to talk about the shapes of these leaves and flowers? What words does your child use?? Try starting the dialogue with, “Show me a leaf shape you like. Why do you like that one? Tell me about it…”
3. Creatures: Often suburban nurseries provide an oasis for birds, butterflies, insects and lizards. Our nursery has dozens of bearded dragons lazing around, much to my son’s delight. Are there any local residents at your nursery…?
4. Weird & Wonderful: One of the things I love about visiting a larger nursery is their range of well established unusual species. If you are a plant lover yourself, talk to your child about what makes them so special. If you’re not, don’t panic! Most nurseries provide information about plants either on signs, or on tags on the plant itself. (Learning together is a great example to set for your kids anyway.) Children of all ages are fascinated by the carnivorous plants featured above! A great language activity is to make up names for plants. Kids come up with amazing names given the opportunity. “What would you call this plant?”
5. Scavenger Hunt: Before heading off on your adventure you could make your child an age appropriate scavenger hunt. It doesn’t have to be fancy! Fold an A4 piece of paper into quarters and draw a simple object in each square. A red flower. A round rock. A spiky plant. Some kids will just loooove having a clipboard to walk around with. For others it’s way too school-like and not their thing. Older kids might like to make longer scavenger hunts for each other (or for you, if they don’t have a sibling old enough to swap with) before leaving. If you’re not that organised though, just make one up as you walk around. “Ok, let’s find something orange. Great job spotting that orange flower! Now let’s find something that can crawl…”
Of course, a nursery is still a “shop” of sorts so you’ll need to establish some rules before doing any of the activities above (like no picking). If what your kids need is a good run around in the fresh air, head out on a bushwalk or go to a park instead and save the nursery for another day! Or just hang out in your own backyard. Try this post from Caro for a little inspiration.
Have you ever taken your kids to a nursery? If not do you think you might now? If you have, what other suggestions do you have for exploring a nursery with young kids?