Beans are an ideal way to introduce children to the natural cycles of nature. Bean seeds are big enough for little fingers to handle easily. They are versatile, easy to grow in nearly any soil, and because they germinate in just a few days, they will hold the attention of young children. Plant low-growing beans or runner beans that will scramble up a pole or trellis. Buy packets of bean seeds at a garden centre. Don't attempt to plant beans from the supermarket, as the beans have been dried and won't germinate.
Lesson in germination
Children of any age can plant a bean seed in a glass jar. Fill a 1 litre (1 quart) glass jar with garden soil or commercial potting soil, and then instruct your child to plant the seed in the soil. Push the beans against the side of the jar and water the soil. In a few days, children can see the bean seed split in half and a stem begin to appear.
Bean vine teepee
Make a secret garden room out of green bean vines. Drive five wooden stakes into the ground, forming a circle about 90 cm (3 feet) across. Join the stakes at the top with string to create a teepee shape. Plant two or three runner bean seeds at the base of each stake. The bean vines will wind around the stakes, creating a small room. Train the vines to allow for a door. At the end of summer, your child can harvest the beans.
Small garden patch
Even the youngest child can plant his own small bean patch. The beans should be planted after the last frost of the season, as bean seeds won't grow in cold soil. Cultivate the soil ahead of time, and then give your child a handful of beans to plant. Don't worry about spacing or depth, because beans are forgiving and the plants can be thinned later. Use string beans for younger children, as the beans will grow quickly.
Place a damp paper towel inside a resealable plastic bag. Let the child place three or four bean seeds in the bag and seal the top. Hang the bag in a sunny window or in a sunny spot outdoors. Prepare a separate bag and place the bag in a cool, shady spot. Help your child record the progress of each bag.
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