Welcome to the second installment of our The ABCs of…Farming for Children series, where we take a look at how you can use farming as an educational tool to learn through playing (and of course actually doing it). If you missed our first part, please click here.
Gardening – Some people do not consider gardening a part of farming, yet even if you just plant flowers or herbs, it still qualifies. Flowers are probably some of the easiest things to plant and tend to and children love to check back every day to see, if something has poked through the dirt and then grows all the way to the full flower. Housing A Forest has a great post on growing shamrock sprouts, while Taming The Goblin shows how you can introduce your children to gardening without having to go to great lengths and Kindergarten & Preschool for Parents & Teachers also takes a look at how to recycle garden scraps. If you want to read more on fun and educational gardening activities, check out Nurture Store’s great e-book “The Garden Classroom”!
Goats – As one of the most curious animals of the farmyard, goats are an excellent way for children to study animal behaviour, also in the longer term, as The Freckled Homeschooler shows in her post about their goats coming home and also The Great Escape.
Grains – For centuries the different grains have been at the center of farming, also due to their versatility. Grains such as wheat, rye, corn, rice or oat have been used for the making of flour, cereals to oil extraction. With this grains are one of the prime elements in the food chain as well as a great opportunity to teach your children about how one family of foods can yield such a big variety of results.
Harvesting – The time of harvest is always a time of both a lot of work and joy, since the rewards of the labour are reaped. Even though usually late summer and early autumn are the main times for the harvest (mainly for the grains such as wheat, rye etc.), but you can harvest fruits, vegetables and other crops throughout the year. While for the big fields technology has taken over by now to keep things manageable, children just love to pull out the ripe carrots, pick apples from the trees or search for the brightest and reddest strawberries they can find, giving them a sense of accomplishment for helping bringing food back home (or straight into their bellies) And at the same time it also teaches them both the value of the work and also the final stage of the life cycle of plants (ok, maybe not the life cycle, but a cycle nonetheless).
Health – Healthy foods are something very important and with many commercially raised and harvested products you can’t really be sure what is in them, which is why farming (the “right” way) can be a great way to ensure that you can get naturally grown meat, fruit and vegetables on your table, without hormonal treatments, genetically modified organisms and whatever else we can find these days. Overall farm food in most cases is not processed and more natural and therefore closer to what your body should take in.
Herbs – Growing up you do not pay a lot of attention to herbs usually, other than that they are green and usually show up on or in your food one way or the other. Once you get past that stage, you will discover soon, though, how important these herbs are not only in adding flavour and seasoning, but also in adding healthy aspects to your meal, which also are worth exploring. They are also easy to grow indoors if you don’t have space for a garden and they smell great.
Horses – Horses have been a part of farming pretty much from the beginning, mostly used to transport things between the farm and the city, pulling carts and wagons and also raising and training them. These days horses are bred for racing, riding, pulling carts, shows, sports and more – and children usually love them, be them fully grown or just ponies. Small Potatoes has a wonderful post titled “Meeting The Mare…”.
Innovation – If you look back at the early days of farming and compare them with what it looks like nowadays on the big and commercial farms with all of its machinery, the innovation involved is downright amazing. Starting out with simple plows drawn by horse or ox and doing everything else by hand, these days almost everything is automated and there are machines for almost everything out there to make things easier, faster and more commercial, in many cases out of necessity. Through this the children will be able to see all the innovation that went and still is going into the world of farming.
Irrigation – All plants need water to grow and with big farms you just can’t walk around with a watering can, so some bright minds came up with irrigation systems (as far back as the ancient times of the Chinese, Egyptians, Nubians, Indians and Persians. There are different kinds of irrigation (canals, surface irrigation, drippers, sprinklers and more), but they all have one goal – to get water onto the fields without having to manually transport it and ensure that the plants have enough water to grow.Jam – Everybody loves jam. OK, maybe not everybody, but most of us. Making jam actually is one of the oldest ways of preserving fruit by cooking them together with sugar – and the best jam is from the fresh fruit and made by Grandma (speaking out of my personal experience here :)).
Junk – Most people live under the impression that farms are full of junk, but actually on farms more than anywhere else, people are reusing and recycling things a lot, finding new uses for old things, because they either can’t afford them or just do not want to have things go to waste, showing great up- and recycling abilities and also the potential to make amazing things out of what other people would just throw out.
Knowledge – Throughout the millenniums and centuries, the farm has become a centre of tremendous knowledge of sowing and harvesting, breeding and upbringing, tending and caring and the above-mentioned innovation into new machinery, new methods and new breeds, some out of need, some out of the sheer will to be able to get more out of the farm faster and with less effort…sometimes forgetting it is not a race…
Kettle Corn – Most children love popcorn and in times way before the microwave was invented, popcorn used to be made in big cast iron kettles, introduced to North America by Dutch settlers back in the 19th century. The corn, oil, salt and sugar were cooked together in one of these kettles, resulting in a sweet and salty popcorn with a light, sweet crust.
Life Cycle – One of the biggest learning opportunities surrounding a farm is the life cycle. In many different ways children will be able to witness how a seed turns into a sapling, then a plant and either resulting in a flower or crop to be picked or harvested, how a pregnancy turns into an egg or a baby animal and eventually evolves into a fully grown living being and also how different the same kind of cycle can be depending on the species. You can regrow vegetables, like Housing A Forest shows with regrowing celery or Crystal’s Tiny Treasures with the birth of a calf or her series on the life cycle of frogs: Eggs, the emergence of the tadpoles, the froglets and finally frog freedom.
Love – As a farmer, you need lots of love for what you are doing to run a farm, because it is very labour extensive, if you don’t love it, chances are it will not work.
Labour – As mentioned above, running a farm is a LOT of work, getting up at the crack of dawn and usually going to bed late. There are animals to be milked, fed, tended to, crops to be planted, irrigated and harvested, equipment to be maintained, it is not easy to keep everything up and running.
Check here for part three, from M to R!
Overall there are more than 70 bloggers participating in this series, covering all kinds of topics related to children. Below you can find the rest of the participants in the “Learning through play” category, or you may want to browse through the entire series.
- Baking with Kids from Life at the Zoo
- Bath Activities for Kids from Bath Activities for Kids
- Discovery Bottles from Teach Preschool
- Farming for Children from Glittering Muffins
- Fitness for Kids from 3 Dinosaurs
- Imaginative Play from Train up a Child
- Kids Activities from Growing a Jeweled Rose
- Learning Through Play from Love Play & Learn
- Learning Toys & Manipulatives from This Reading Mama
- Movement Activities for Young Kids from AngeliqueFelix.com
- Play Dough from The Imagination Tree
- Playing with Light from Graham and Parker
- Preschool Play from Its Our Long Story
- Sensory Bins from Royal Baloo
- Sensory Play from Creative Play House
- Toddler Activities from Toddler Approved
- Winter Outdoor Play from Pleasantest Thing
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