Kids + Teens

Ms. Meghan Makes: Up in the Garden, Down in the Dirt

This is the year: we are finally starting a garden. After years of begging, the kids convinced me with their mini-lawyer skills. They immediately started planning out what kind of flowers and foods they want to grow (Will was disappointed there are not hot dog plants), and how we are going to keep out the many wild rabbits our neighborhood hosts (No, Sam, you cannot shoot them with your Nerf gun).

In prep for our new garden, we’ve been reading as many gardening books as we can get our hands on. One of our new favorites is Up in the Garden, Down in the Dirt, written by Kate Messner and illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal. Beautifully written and illustrated, the book explores the life cycle of the garden in both the tending of the plants above ground and the hidden work of bugs and creatures beneath the soil. The splendid illustration, gentle cadence and rich information make Up in the Garden, Down in the Dirt an endearing non-fiction read.

Up in the Garden Down in the Dirt

While our little garden is still starting in seedling containers indoors, the kids came up with some fun ways to explore gardening before we can get our hands in the dirt. My kids really took the lead with these activities—my ideas got pushed aside as the kids started brainstorming on their own. I was a bit insulted and a lot proud of my little planners! I’ve included a PDF for each activity with more detailed instructions and pictures, as well as a short review of each activity.

Three kids ready to plant

First we explored the layers of the garden, both above and below the surface, by creating a felt flower box. Using felt, straws, paper, some fake bugs and worms, and a few little bread baking liners, we built the layers of a little garden complete with bugs, worms and flowers. The kids had so much fun building and rebuilding their little flower boxes.

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Download Flowerbox Instructions

Next, on a perfectly rainy day, we collected little bits of nature to observe indoors in little glass jars. Sam suggested this activity, which has been a favorite of his since he was small. We only keep the bugs and worms for a couple days, and then carefully return the creatures to their homes in the yard. They love finding the worms in the bottom of the soil and examining the beetles with their magnifying glasses.

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Download Observatory Instructions

One last activity I want to share with you is a fun garden-themed sensory bin. All three of my kids love sensory bins, and this one has especially fun mix of textures. Will spearheaded this activity, and had a grand time picking out beans from the bulk section, flowers from IKEA, and the perfect squishy fake caterpillars. Sam added his own twist on his sensory tub that he spent a full hour exploring.

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Download Sensory Box Instructions

We hope you’ll have a chance to explore the garden with us! Up in the Garden, Down in the Dirt is a perfect addition to our library. I hope you’re enjoying it if you haven’t picked it up already. And, what are your favorite spring garden activities? Please let us know—we’d love to share in the fun!

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Meghan Premo-Hopkins

Meghan Premo-Hopkins

Meghan Premo-Hopkins is an English teacher, mom of three, and super fan of Chronicle children’s books. She shares her inspired ideas for book-related activities every other month (or so) on the Chronicle Blog.
Meghan Premo-Hopkins

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