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The school year is coming to a close. And what a year it has been! We’ve all faced periods of isolation, bouts of anxiety, and tons of screen time – even (or especially) our kids. As things slowly return to normal, we have the opportunity to use summer break as a time for healing and re-connection.

Gardening is a great way to do this! Studies show that gardening is wonderful for your mental health and social connections. Plus, it’s a great way to incorporate more physical activity and outdoor time into your day. Here are a few fun garden activities to do with your family:

  • Grow a sunflower fort. Plant giant sunflowers in the outline of a circle, leaving a small gap in the circumference. As the flowers grow tall, the inside of the sunflower circle can serve as a magical hiding place for little ones.
  • Go on a bug hunt. Get down close to the earth, flip over leaves, and look under rocks, to see how many different kinds of bugs you can find in your garden or yard.
  • Become a guerrilla gardener. Make seed bombs with native wildflowers. Then go on a walk around the neighborhood and toss them in empty lots (with permission) or pass them out to neighbors.
  • Make a mud pie. Turn this classic kid activity into a science project by using a variety of soils to compare the mud they make.
  • Plant a pizza garden. Use pizza ingredients to get kiddos excited about gardening. You can even shape the garden in a circle, with “slices” designated for different ingredients. Try planting tomatoes, garlic, onions, oregano, bell peppers, or even wheat!
  • Paint plant markers. Paint stones, shards of a broken clay pot, or wooden spoons with cute decorations and the names of the plants you’re growing in your garden. Use them as markers so you can remember what seeds went where.
  • Give gardening a hand. Use a disposable glove as a planter by placing a damp paper towel and different kind of seed in each finger. Bonus points for a see-though glove that allows you to observe and compare germination time and root growth.
  • Make a butterfly puddle. Learn how from UGA Extension.

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MEET THE AUTHOR

Emily Schoenfelder joined the Illinois 4-H team in 2017. Prior to this, she began her work in positive youth development with California 4-H and the YMCA. She specializes in STEM engagement, social-emotional development, and educator professional development.

She received a master of science degree in recreation, park, and tourism administration from Western Illinois University.  

When she is not leading a training, writing curriculum, or developing new partnerships, you may find Emily sitting on the floor of her office, building marshmallow catapults out of popsicle sticks or designing mazes for robots for her next STEM program.

ABOUT THE BLOG

Connection Corner:  is a blog that provides timely information, activities, and resources to help you stay connected to loved ones, the world around you, and yourself.