Children’s Celebrations of Spring

Child picking spring flowers

Do you celebrate spring with your children? My kids are so excited to have the occasional gust of warm air that they are wearing shorts and short sleeves and shivering whenever the temperature goes above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. My children are ready to celebrate spring.

Despite the snowflakes I saw today, my flowers have certainly embraced spring as I see little purple faces peeking through the dirt all over.


Seasons Tree

The Creative Family book cover

When my children were very young, we always had a seasons tree to decorate as seasons changed. For spring, we blew eggs out of their shells and colored them to hang on the tree. When we moved to the desert, we started using carefully pruned tumbleweeds as our seasons tree! In the past couple of years, we have decorated the tree in our yard with colorful fabric scraps, which the magpies love to steal thread by thread.

A Seasons Tree is one of the suggestions Amanda Blake Soule makes in The Creative Family: How to Encourage Imagination and Nurture Family Connections.

The Seasons Tree is a perfect place to display your dyed, painted, and decorated eggs. Just glue a bit of ribbon, string, or fishing wire to the top of each egg, creating a loop for hanging on the branch (p133).

She also suggests bringing in some of those signs of spring to decorate your nature table: a budding leaf, growing wheatgrass, and a green play silk.

Birthdays and holidays are opportunities to acknowledge the spiraling of time and connect with the people we want to share our time. Whatever way you celebrate spring with your children, help them pause, breathe in the newly warmed air, and mark the rebirth of nature.

More Spring Celebration Ideas

More from The Creative Family

Image © Frolov Andrey | Dreamstime.com

It’s Time to Plan Your Garden

Vegetable Garden Plan video

Now is prime time for garden planning and seed buying. If you haven’t planted a vegetable garden before, start out this year with plan so you get as close as you can get to a guaranteed success.

Follow these simple steps, and be prepared to learn from your experience.


Choose Seeds Carefully

You don’t necessarily want to choose seeds first, but I want to start with a word of caution about seeds. If your goal is a natural garden, consider avoiding genetically modified seeds and plants. Go further than that, though. Buy your seeds from people who really care about long-term food security. If you want to avoid patent bully Monsanto and you are looking for non-genetically-modified seeds, shop with seed companies that have taken the Safe Seeds pledge. (Scroooooll for Canada.) If you might buy seedlings, print this list to be sure that you avoid Monsato varieties in plants as well.


Don’t Fight Your Climate

As you are dreaming of your ideal garden, be realistic about where you live. Choose native and heirloom plants that grow in your climate, and you are more likely to have a successful harvest. If you have a local community garden organization or a plant center that is conscientious about stocking only non-GM plants, find out from locals what works in your area.

Check the plant hardiness zone map for Canada or the U.S., and don’t try to grow orange trees in northern Ontario unless you have a greenhouse. (My father-in-law keeps a greenhouse just so he can grow oranges and other tropical plants in cold, rainy Britain. If that’s your dream, it is possible.)


Plant Compatible Companions

Not all vegetables grow well next to all others, and some vegetables work very well together. Corn, beans, and squash grown together give shade to the squash and a pole for the beans to climb up. These are long-time North American companions. Just choose plants that won’t compete for sunlight and won’t attract insects that will nibble their neighbors.


Map Out Your Garden Plan

When you are ready for a plan, you could just start with someone else’s plan and follow their directions. That’s an easy way to plant your first garden without too much stress, as long as the plants are appropriate to your area. You can download a plan from Better Homes and Gardens or get the plan and a complete supply kit from Gardener’s Supply Company.

If you want to create a themed garden, start with a list of plants. Do you, for example, want to grow a bowl of salsa or grow an edible flower salad to delight a child? Focusing on a clear outcome like a specific meal is a great way to keep a very young child interested in the garden.

If you want to customize your plan, try online garden planning programs. Gardener’s has a simple drag-and-drop map you can arrange then print. Through Mother Earth News, you can try the GrowVeg.com planner free for 30 days. Once you start playing with the software, you may not want to stop. The program creates a plant list and planting schedule.

Or, as you become more expert in gardening, you can go old school and draw out your own garden plan your own way.


Schedule Planting

Find out the anticipated dates of last spring frost for Canada or the U.S. in the Old Farmer’s Almanac (a book you might want to have around as you become a real gardener). Determine the ideal time for planting each of your planned plants, and work backward to figure out when you should start your seeds. Create a schedule, and refer to this schedule throughout the spring. If you use the GrowVeg.com planner, your schedule is created for you.


Now Buy Your Seeds

By now, you probably just want to get planting. Buy your seeds or plants, and you will be planting soon. In Simcoe County, Ontario, they tell us to place our plant order by April 1st, so you do have a couple of weeks to plan and dream.


Record Your Plan

Get a gardener’s notebook then record everything from your map (which you can print and tip into your book) to your shopping list and seed suppliers and your planting notes. Keep track of what you do. If it works, you want to repeat your success. If it doesn’t work, you need to remember what you did so you can do something different next year. This is an adventure. Record the story of your journey as you become a vegetable gardener.

Pink Potato Salad Recipe

Potato and Beet SaladBefore our food system supplied us with anything we want anytime we want, what would have been a common food to celebrate Spring? I decided the answer is Pink Potato Salad, with root vegetables potatoes and beets along with hard-boiled eggs.

I find that my children are more likely to eat nutritious foods if I make them interesting. Adding beets to our usual potato salad got their attention. This makes a slightly wet, very sour salad. If you like potato salad more solid, cook the potatoes for a shorter time and use less vinegar.

Potato Salad Ingredients

2 large potatoes, rough cut
5 hard-boiled eggs, diced
1/2 pickled beet, diced
1/4 red onion, diced
1/4 – 1/2 cup cider vinegar
2-3 Tablespoons mustard
1/4 cup mayonnaise
salt and pepper to taste

Potatoes. I prefer rough-cut, well-done baking potatoes. They are flaky, and they tend to fall apart, but I just don’t like waxy potatoes at all.

Eggs. If you colored eggs, here is one of the (many) ways you can put them to good use.

Beets. We keep pickled beets in the refrigerator to be used as a garnish or snack. We cook 2-3 beets at a time, then cover with about 1 cup cider vinegar and enough water to cover.

Red Onion. The color this gives is more important in yellow potato salad, but I included because I like the flavor and it still adds a dash more pink.

Vinegar. You can add any kind of vinegar. This is a lot, I admit, but I love vinegar.

Mustard. I used local mustard that is a little sweet. My favorite would be rough, French mustard in a stoneware jar.

Mayonnaise. It’s great fun to make mayonnaise with children, helping them understand what an emulsion is. There is an issue with raw eggs to consider. I didn’t do anything that fancy today. I just took it from a jar.

Salt. Local salt.

Pepper. Faraway pepper. An alternative is to grind up red pepper seeds.

Potato Salad

  1. 1. Hard boil the eggs, 15-20 minutes.
  2. 2. Boil the potatoes, 20-25 minutes or until desired softness.
  3. 3. Drain potatoes. Cut while hot, and pour vinegar over hot potatoes. The allows the potatoes to absorb the vinegar taste.
  4. 4. Add the rest of the ingredients and adjust taste.

Beet and Potato Salad

Yum.

Grow an Edible Flower Salad With Your Child

The seeds we are planting this year --- later, when random snowstorms stop.

The seeds we are planting this year --- later, when it stops random snowing.

Grow a gardener? Plant a garden your child will find interesting. How about planting a salad garden with the added intrigue of edible flowers?

Before I even had children, my husband and I planted edible flowers in our garden just for the joy of it. One day, a neighbor girl about four years old joined me in my long, narrow garden to ask what I was doing.

“Eating flowers,” I told her.

“Why?”

“They taste good. Do you want one?”

I gave her a Johnny Jump Up and asked her to take it to her mother to ask if she could eat it.

Last year I suggested growing a bowl of salsa to give child gardener an easy success. This year, I suggest planting a salad—and making it interesting with edible flowers.

Yes, it is sometimes difficult to convince a child to eat greens. If they put the care into growing lettuce and spinach themselves, they may be more likely to eat a salad. I don’t have trouble getting either of my children to eat salad, but edible flowers make salad all the more fascinating.


Salad Garden

I have found that if I designate one area to be the responsibility of one child, my children take more interest in keeping the plants alive and healthy. If you create a salad area of the garden for your child, they will know exactly what area is theirs. Be sure to give them the tools and the support they need to be successful. My children have gardening gloves, small tools, and a child-sized watering can.

Try a variety of lettuces and other greens. With a big mixture, you can hold taste tests and plan your next year’s garden based on what everyone likes best.

Be sure to research which plants will grow best in your climate. Is it best in your area to start seeds indoors or to plant seeds directly?

Easy for children to grow:

  • Pansy
  • Marigold
  • Johnny Jump Up
  • Calendula

Edible Flower Dos and Don’ts

  • Don’t use flower fertilizers or plant foods on flowers you plan to eat.
  • Don’t eat flowers from flower shops unless they grow them specifically for eating.
  • Harvest early in the morning when water content is highest.
  • Only eat petals.
  • Be cautious if you or your child have allergies.

In addition to garnishes and salads, try eating flowers in other ways.

  • Tea
  • Candied
  • Jelly or jam
  • Butter or honey
  • Oil

VERY IMPORTANT WARNING!

If you are going to teach your child to eat flowers, you must also teach them that not all flowers are good to eat. Better yet, purge your garden of poisonous flowers and put medicinal flowers in an area that is difficult to reach. This isn’t as easy as it sounds, since the flowers of some vegetables are considered poisonous.

I ended up NOT teaching my children to eat flowers out of our garden because we also had Datura (Jimson Weed or Moonflower) lining the other side of our house for about 20 feet. This is a very toxic hallucinogen, so the children were not allowed to even touch the plant despite the beautiful flowers that we often watched opening up within minutes.

Only teach your children to eat flowers if you can either control their access to flowers or they are old enough to understand that some flowers can be eaten and some absolutely should not be eaten. Children should always be taught to check with an adult before eating out of a garden, in the woods, or anywhere else. If both the adults and the children are well educated about edible gardening and wild edible plants, you have a great adventure ahead of you.


Resources

Throughout March we will offer guides to getting started with some of the basic practices of attachment parenting and sustainable living. This is Spring Week with ideas, crafts, and recipes.