Gardening With Children

Butterfly gardening has become an incredibly popular activity. It is so easy, because all it requires is a little space and a few carefully chosen plants. It can be an extremely rewarding activity to carry out with children, who can experience hands-on science at its best while learning about topics like pollination, insect life cycles, and weather. We are so excited about it that we are going to devote a week of blog posts to butterfly gardening with children.


Our schedule:

Monday: The basics of butterfly gardening with children.

Tuesday: Figure out the five Mystery Seeds that will become great butterfly garden plants.

Edit:  The answers are now posted. See five great nectar plants for butterfly gardens.

Wednesday:  Identifying Butterflies for Beginners (with activity suggestions)

Thursday:  Pollination and butterflies (with activity suggestions)

Friday:  Adding trees to your butterfly garden.

We made it through the week!


Growing Resource List:

Butterfly and Moth Activities at Growing with Science website.

Butterfly Project has information about starting a butterfly garden.

Butterfly science activities here at Growing with Science blog

The North American Butterfly Association (NABA) has an extensive list of plants for butterfly gardens.

All about monarch butterflies and their migrations at Journey North

More about identifying butterflies at Gardens With Wings

See our list of fabulous children's books about butterflies and moths at Science Books for Kids.


Please join us and feel free to add links to your own posts, any questions, or ideas for topics about butterfly gardening with children in the comments.


Our new affiliate, Botanical Interests, has a wide selection of butterfly gardening seeds including Bring Home the Butterflies Seed Mix and Butterfly Milkweed seeds. If you click through the ads and order seeds, we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.


We have a lot of news today:

The good news this week is that the weather in many areas has begun to warm up. With the arrival of spring,  you may be thinking of gardening with children. The better news is Quarry Books has published Gardening Lab for Kids: 52 Fun Experiments to Learn, Grow, Harvest, Make, Play, and Enjoy Your Garden (Hands-On Family) by Renata Fossen Brown this month and it is just the book to have on hand to add enjoyment and depth to a child's gardening experience. The best news is that you have a chance to win a copy through our giveaway contest (see below)!

Before going any further, it is important to note that although the term "experiments" in the subtitle might suggest scientific trials or investigations, for this book "experiment" is actually used more in the sense of "to try something new."  Gardening Lab for Kids is a lovely collection of hands-on activities for children to do for every week of the year, from designing a garden and making seed tape, to planting a garden in a shoe, growing a pizza garden, and constructing a wind chime. In addition, children will certainly learn some science as they explore parts of plants, investigate soils, try out composting, and learn about watering.

Renata Fossen Brown is Vice President of Education at the Cleveland Botanical Garden, and her experience and resources show in the quality of the book. Each "Lab" is accompanied by color photographs of children doing the activity, a list of materials, step-by-step procedures written for children, and suggestions for extensions ("Dig Deeper!") Each activity is designed so that it could stand alone or be used as a series. Many of the activities can be done with limited space and use readily-available materials.

Gardening is a wonderful hobby for children because, as Brown writes, it gets them active and outdoors. It has many benefits, such as it helps children connect with their food, learn about nature, and explore their creativity. Gardening is an especially good project for kinesthetic learners, who always reap extra rewards from hands-on activities. Brown also alludes to studies that have shown that getting outdoors helps children develop focus.

With all the benefits, are you ready to "try something new" and do some gardening?  Gardening Lab for Kids has the ideas and instructions to get started today!

leaf-borderGiveaway Contest

Would you like to try to win a copy of Gardening Lab for Kids? Simply leave a comment on this blog post with a valid e-mail address (U.S. mailing addresses only, please) by May 5, 2014 at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. A single winner will be selected at random from the comments and notified via e-mail. The giveaway contest is now closed.


Age Range: 5 - 12 years
Grade Level: Kindergarten - 6
Series: Hands-On Family
Paperback: 136 pages
Publisher: Quarry Books (April 1, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1592539041
ISBN-13: 978-1592539048

For more ideas, visit our Gardening/Science Activities for Kids Pinterest board and our recent posts for Children's Garden Week.


Disclosures: This book was provided for review by the publisher. Also, I am an affiliate for Amazon, and if you click through the linked titles or ads and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. Proceeds will be used to maintain this self-hosted blog.

If you are interested in children's nonfiction, you might want to visit the Nonfiction Monday blog and see what other new books bloggers have found.



In our increasingly sterile and antibiotic-filled world, it is easy to forget the importance of microorganisms and the process of decomposition to soil quality. The picture book Rotten Pumpkin: A Rotten Tale in 15 Voices by David M. Schwartz and with photographs by Dwight Kuhn takes you down and dirty with close-ups of molds, slime molds and yeasts, as well as other organisms, to show how nutrients get recycled and organic matter added to the soil.


I'll let you know right up front that this book is not for the highly squeamish. If the thought of fly vomit makes you quiver, then you might not find the book as delightful as I did. Photographer Kuhn spares nothing as he follows the decomposition meltdown of a carved Halloween pumpkin. Remember that kids, however, might enjoy all that goo and ooze. Plus, the team of David M. Schwartz and Dwight Kuhn have worked on a number of projects together and their expertise shows.

I found this short time-lapse video that will give you an inkling of what to expect:

David Schwartz tells the story of 15 decomposing organisms from the first person point of view, bringing the reader right in. I don't think it will be too much of a "spoiler" to let you know the cycle ends on an upbeat note with a pumpkin seed sprouting in the resulting compost.

Rotten Pumpkin will be highlighted at Halloween because of the pumpkin, but it deserves a place on the shelf all year around because of the universal processes it explores.

Related activities:

Experiencing compost and the process of decomposition first hand can be a life-changing lesson for children. Don't be afraid to get dirty!

1. The suggestions for classroom investigations using pumpkins in the back of the book are excellent ones, for example looking at how temperature changes the decomposition process.


(Photograph of compost bin in public domain at Wikipedia)

2. Composting

My sister and I consider ourselves lucky because our mother was composting back in the 1960s when we were growing up. Our mother was way ahead of her time, but we got to learn how it worked at an early age.

As we moved around the country we realized composting is one of those processes that varies a bit from place to place and situation to situation. Therefore, I recommend that before you launch a big project that you find a local class or the advice of a local gardening expert if you can. The Internet is also filled with basic information, such as website and videos. Here are just a few examples:

Michigan Kids has kid-friendly instructions about composting to get you started.

The Texas Agricultural Extension Service has a Composting for Kids slide show.

Hamilton County Recycles has a fun, upbeat video on how to get started with backyard composting:

Once you have compost going, Cornell University has a bunch of information and excellent experiment ideas at The Science and Engineering of Composting.

3. Composting with earthworms

If you don't have room for a full-fledged compost bin, you might want to investigate a worm bin. Our family's worm composting adventure was definitely a memorable and worthwhile experience. We also shared our worm bin with students in my son's classes. See the Weekend Science Fun: Earthworms for more details (worm composting is towards the bottom of the post) and an instruction video.

Have doubts? Think composting might be smelly or icky? Yes, it might be those things on occasion, but experimenting with compost also will yield a much deeper understanding of our world.

Age Range: 4 - 12 years
Grade Level: Preschool - 7
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Creston Books (July 23, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1939547032
ISBN-13: 978-1939547033

Thank you for visiting us during Children's Garden Week. If you have children's gardening resources you would like to include, please feel free to leave a comment.



Disclosures: This book was provided for review by Creston Books. Also, I am an affiliate for Amazon, and if you click through the linked titles or ads and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. Proceeds will be used to maintain this self-hosted blog.