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  • Writer's pictureRifke Hill

Planting Sunflowers for Nature Preschool

Planting is an activity that delights every child, and few plants are more fascinating than sunflowers. They grow up into giants, are brightly colored, attract wildlife, and you can snack on them!

Planting and harvesting bring deep satisfaction to children, and a sense of accomplishment that boosts their self-confidence. Outdoor play gives them the chance to benefit from the sunshine, fresh air and exercise, and provides the perfect opportunity for you to teach them: teach them about the environment and sustainability, and about organically grown food and how to garden.

Nature play ideas - sunflower

Organic Peat Pot Starter Tray Kit

So if you’re looking for nature play ideas or are thinking about planting a children’s garden with your preschooler, start with the hardy sunflower. It’s a guaranteed success!

1. Get ready.

You’ll need:

  • some seeds (the large, not decorative, variety)

  • some fertilizer if your soil is very poor (the fertilizer needs to be low in nitrogen as sunflowers don’t like that.)

Start when the days are warm and pick a spot that’s fully in the sun. Keep sunflowers away from your eco garden, as they emit substances that prevent potatoes and pole beans from growing.

Time to plant

2. Time to plant!

Plant seeds about six inches apart, between one and two inches deep. If you’d like your rows to look neat, lay out pebbles to help your child find their spacing (or if they’re up for a challenge, give them a tape and let them measure the distance themselves!) If you’re planting with toddlers or aren’t too fussed, your best bet is to mark out a spot, have an ample supply of seeds at hand, and let them plant where they will inside the demarcated area. You can always weed out crowded plants later.

Kids Garden Set

3. Nurture your plant babies.

Sunflowers need lots of water in order to develop that load-bearing root system. Kids love watering, so include them every time you water. Learning to do simple repetitive tasks (if they’re not too tiresome) from young will increase your child’s tolerance for adult responsibilities later in life.

Mulch the sunflowers together to help keep them damp and healthy.

4. Harvesting time!

Once the sunflower heads have turned yellowish brown at the back and are drooping, and the seeds at the front are loose and look dried, your sunflower seeds are ready! Cut off seed heads with a little stalk attached and hang them in your kitchen, scullery or garden shed to cure for a couple of weeks. Scrub out seeds with a stiff brush or by rubbing heads together, and store in airtight jars in the fridge. Let your child help in any way they can during this process, as it is the culmination of all their efforts.

Give your kid a few heads to lay out on the grass or under a tree for birds and squirrels to feast on. Let them gift some to a friend, family member or neighbor. And praise them with heartfelt appreciation when you enjoy your organic, home-grown seeds as a snack, in homemade muesli or on fresh loaves of bread.

As an alternative for small kids, I also love this method by an educator turned stay-at-home mom. She uses biodegradable plant pots and clear plastic containers to create miniature greenhouses for her kids’ sunflowers, and lets them water with a dropper, which improves their fine motor skills. If you decide to follow this method, you’ll need to plant your seedlings out into the garden once they sprout.

Planting Sunflowers for Nature Preschool

Written by RIfke Hill


About the Author

Rifke Hill was raised on the sort of farm your grandparents told tales about – milking cows, gathering eggs, hoeing the soil, and building fires to heat water. She now spends part of her time copywriting online as a freelancer. The rest of it is spent nurturing and teaching her four energetic children, growing vegetables, baking bread, reading voraciously, having coffee with the neighbors, and enjoying the sunny slopes of the smallholding where she lives, in the Garden Route, South Africa.

100% Biodegradable Seed Starter Pots

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