Short Term Magic

Coloured Carnations – Children are absolutely amazed when you put the freshly cut end of a white carnation into blue dye and water (Ordinary food coloring will work).  They stand in eager anticipation of what will happen or not happen.  Always take a poll before the experiment and after to see who thought what would happen. After about 30 minutes the carnation will turn a beautiful shade of blue.

How to do it:

Dyeing Carnations

  • Get a few white carnations (1 would be enough, but with 2 or more you can do two colours)
  • Fill flower vase(s) 1/4 full of water.
  • Use a fair amount (10 to 20 drops) of food coloring – blue or red work best
  • Put a freshly cut flower stem in each vase and let it sit.
  • Check back every few hours to see how it’s working.
  • After 30 minutes you should see a significant colour change which may continue to darken for up to 24 hours

Tip – At the end of your experiment, by examining the whole plant carefully (stem, leaves, buds, petals, etc), you can have the children identify what flower parts they can see the food color in.

Mid Term Magic

Young ones think you are a magician when you cut the tops off their carrots or parsnips, put them in a jar lid with a wee bit of water, and in less than 2 days you have carrots or parsnips tops starting to grow (the leafy upper parts of the plant, NOT the edible root parts).
How to do it:
  • carrot tops growing in shallow waterCut the top from a carrot. You’ll need about one inch of the root part.
  • Place it on a jar lid or other non-precious item as it will become stained.
  • Fill the lid with water up to barely touch the bottom edge of the carrot or parsnip piece.
  • Set it in a light, but not a too sunny window.
  • Top up with water daily to keep it touching the vegetable piece.
  • Watch the roots sprout over the next few days!
Tip – once the roots are well sprouted, you can repot into some soil in a pot. If you start 5 or 6 tops, you’ll have a very nice leafy plant to display.

Long Term Magic

Planting potatoes in the garden is wonderfully rewarding for little ones, as they put a few seed potatoes in the hill in May and then dig up the well-marked hill with perhaps 6 big potatoes for their meal. Potatoes are incredibly easy to grow and yummy to eat!
How to do it (Garden method):
  • ideally, purchase seed potatoes (available from a seed company or garden store) as they have not been treated with a growth retardant and are disease free.
  • Quarter the large potatoes, making sure there are 1-2 eyes on each piece.
  • Let them sit in a paper bag for a couple days so that their cuts heal over
  • Plant each seed potato, with eyes facing up, about a foot apart and 6 inches deep in the garden.
  • Water them weekly.
  • “Hill them” by mounding the soil around the stems as they grow.

How to do it (Container method):

  • ideally, purchase seed potatoes (available from a seed company or garden store) as they have not been treated with a growth retardant and are disease free.
  • Quarter the large potatoes, making sure there are 1-2 eyes on each piece.
  • Place the seed potatoes with cut-side down (‘eyes’ facing up) in an egg carton.
  • Leave them alone until they start growing leaves.
  • Choose a large container that’s deep enough and has drain holes in the bottom. An old tub or bucket would work.
  • Pot-up the potatoes by placing them at the bottom of the container and then covering them with soil – not too deep to start!
  • Place the container in a sunny place outdoors.
  • Top up with soil regularly as the plants grow.
  • Watch the plants grow big and flower and be careful not to over-water.

Whichever method you choose, the potatoes should be ready to harvest by early to mid-summer. After flowering, the plants will start to wither and die. Then, the magic will finally be revealed. Like treasure hunters you or the children can use a garden fork to carefully loosen the soil (or turn out the container) and watch the excitement as they pick the long-awaited potatoes they’ve been nurturing!

What an impact growing their own food can make!

Many years ago a young boy said he hated tomatoes but he would grow them as instructed to get his badge.  He carried the pot around with the young seedling from sunny spot to sunny spot. He watered diligently and watched for bugs as instructed; talking to the plant the whole summer.  He was very successful and had a large number of cherry tomatoes on his plant.  He tried one of the tomatoes that he had grown and nurtured and guess what?  He ate most of them himself as he no longer hated tomatoes.

Now that’s magic! 

Children love to play in the dirt, and if the end result is a growing plant they previously would NOT eat or picking a home-grown flower to give to Grandma, the end result is truly magic.

Read More  –  Gardening as a family? Try these ideas!