On our trip to the Farmer's Market last Saturday there was one stand that was an absolute gold mine for us. Beeswax, honey, some still-in-the-prickly-hull chestnuts for the nature table, and this gigantic sunflower head (there was also an enormous puffball mushroom that I was thisclose to bringing home as well).
I had grand plans of having a children's garden this year. In my vision there was a bean hut, a sensory path, and a sunflower tent. Well, true to my gardening experience thus far, everything died. Every single plant. Most of them didn't make it past the incredibly wet spring and those that did withered away from sheer neglect. Lucky for me, there are those who have greener thumbs than I and can grow 8-foot tall sunflowers.
While Silas napped I set up a simple invitation. Just the sunflower head, a bowl for the seeds, and a strawberry huller for some fine motor practice.
After he explored it for awhile on his own and had picked out some seeds with both the huller and his fingers, I asked him to close his eyes and run his fingers over the flower head. "It's prickly!"
Then we each picked up a seed, closed our eyes again and felt. I don't think he's grasped the difference between "rough" and "smooth" as he mixes them up when we do explorations such as these. Then I asked him to pinch the seed between his fingers to see if it was hard or soft.
He's very interested in how things grow. "How cucumber grow, mama?" (or fill in the blank with whatever fruit, vegetable, or grain has caught his attention) is an oft heard refrain around here. "On a bush!", "On a tree!", "In the ground!" are phrases with which I respond. So, he wanted to lift up the flower head by the bit of stalk that remained so that he could see how it grew out of the ground.
I showed him how to open the shells to find the seeds inside. He had fun snacking on them. I told him that we could choose the biggest and best seeds to plant in the spring. This got him really excited.
Honestly, this didn't hold his attention for very long; maybe 20 minutes. But, I left it out in the living room and I caught glimpses of him returning to it throughout the day. I think we'll leave it out on his desk for the rest of the week for him to investigate and then we'll set it outside in front of the windows and watch the birds have their feast.
Silas is 2.5 years old.