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Habitat Gardening with Children: A Montessori Approach

If you've ever assisted Ms. Ursula during gardening time with the children, you've had the opportunity to see their faces light up with anticipation wondering what they'll get to do this week. They enjoy learning all about the castings we use in the soil when planting flowers, and our Kindergarten friends love sharing how they have helped with the worms who make the castings. The children feel important wearing their child-sized gardening gloves or contributing to the compost bin with lunch scraps. They feel a sense of ownership over our garden because they get to water the plants that they just placed in the soil, spread mulch, and work as a team to sweep the stairs and walkways.

The gardening curriculum that Ms. Ursula created teaches your children to nurture with patience and pride, and can be witnessed daily throughout our school. Our beautiful, thriving habitat garden is evidence that Ms. Ursula has at least TWO green thumbs. She also has some wonderful ideas to help you when gardening with your children at home. In fact, she has so many great tips that we'll just start with a few and link the blogs together over the next few weeks.

We have created a habitat garden in order to draw back natural wildlife that modern living has chased away. Our habitat garden has all of the elements of a good home for butterflies, birds, hummingbirds, chipmunks, squirrels and other wildlife: food, water, shelter, and a place to raise young. Our habitat garden is free from chemicals and fertilizers, of course to protect the children, but also animals feed on the bugs that visit the garden.

We often hear from parents that their children want to create a similar environment at home so here's what you can do to create your own child-friendly habitat garden and a whole season of learning opportunities for your children, as well:

  • Provide Food for Animals: When natural food sources are not available, the animals will either eat the flowers, vegetables, and herbs we plant or the food we provide for them in more than a half dozen bird feeders and suet around the garden, hummingbird feeders, and nuts for squirrels and chipmunks. The children look forward to helping to replenish the nuts and seeds. The containers should be cleaned several times each season as animals prefer containers free from residue and decomposing old seeds.

  • Water Sources: Wildlife needs fresh clean water for drinking, bathing, and reproduction. Birdbaths, water gardens, rain gardens, or puddling areas for butterflies would be excellent choices. The water needs to be changed 2-3 times each week. Toads, chipmunks, and deer prefer larger bodies of water.

  • Provide Shelter: Animals need shelter to hide and feel safe and to raise their young. Dense shrubs, tree stumps, vegetation, and nesting boxes are all good options. You can also create hiding places for animals using logs, brush, rock piles, birdhouses specifically created for the types of birds you'd like to attract, and roosting boxes for bats so they have a place to rest or raise their young. A toad abode is an easy one - just place a planter pot overturned between some shrubs and near some water. When creating these structures with your children, remind them that they are more likely to get animal visitors if these items are left undisturbed.

  • Places to Raise Young: Where you create undisturbed shelter (such as rock piles, birdhouses, etc.) you will find small animals willing to raise their young. It is common, even in newly formed environments, to find birds, chipmunks, salamanders, and butterflies producing new young in your habitat garden.


Next up - Tips for Spring Gardening with Children