Introduce your youngster to the world of gardening with homemade planters that will have him beaming with pride before the first seedling has sprouted. Homemade planters also provide you with the perfect opportunity to teach a child about the importance of recycling, converting trash into reusable material, and creative ways to upcycle, or reuse, items that were destined for the trash.
Have your child spoon a little potting soil into each of the egg carton's depressions and then place one or two seeds in each one. Now all that is left is a little water, and the planter is ready to go. Place it in a sunny spot. You can keep a photo journal of the seedlings' growth or have your child draw the differences each week.
Dad's Shoe Planters
If the family dog has gotten hold of one of Dad's favorite shoes and there's just no way to save it, give the mangled footwear new life as a planter. If the shoe smells bad, run it through the washing machine first. Make two or three holes in the bottom of the shoe with a drill to allow for adequate drainage. Now it's time to let your child's creativity take over; hand over the fabric paint or markers and have him transform the old sneaker into a colorful work of art. All you have to do now is fill the shoe with some potting soil and plant the seeds of your choice. Now you have a one-of-a-kind decoration for a windowsill or front porch.
If you're worried you don't have a green thumb, have your child fill the sneaker planter with handmade blossoming spring trees. Irene Shere, Director of the Early Childhood Consultation Center in Silver Spring, Maryland, recommends these crafty trees as a calm, quiet time activity for children. Start with a small, empty tree branch for the trunk, and attach small twigs with glue to make branches for the tree. Now all that's left are little blossoms, made from small pieces of tissue paper and attached with glue.
Create a flower planter that looks like it was grown in nature, but make sure you've got plenty of rags or newspaper to cover the tabletop—and maybe even the floor—because this project might get messy. Start with a few shallow bowls of paint and dip leaves into the different colors. Use them like sponges to create painted leaf shapes all over a plain flower planter or an empty coffee can.
Once the paint has dried, it's time to pull out the glue. Attach dried leaves and flowers and any other natural material you think might add to the planter's decor until as much of the pot is covered as possible. If you have more than one child, have each decorate a planter, or encourage your youngsters to work together to decorate a large one. Just remember to resist the urge to compare their artwork. "This can create destructive competition between siblings and hurt their relationship," cautions Kristi Miller, a marriage and family therapist intern, family mediator and founder of solutionsinparenting.com. Rather than, "Look how neatly Victoria is painting, Luca," try "You are painting very neatly, Victoria, and your planter looks very colorful, Luca."
These recycled tire planters require a little help from Mom or Dad, but they will be more than worth the effort when your kiddo can show off his artistic talents and his recycling savvy, too. Start by washing two tires—you don't want a planter full of grease and grime—and then create a bottom for one planter from a piece of plywood. If the planter is going directly into the garden, you can skip the plywood bottom. Pull out a large paintbrush and your child's choice of paint colors, and let him get to work turning the old car junk into a beautiful new garden decoration. Let the paint dry and then stack one tire on top of the other.
Use glue to hold the two tire tiers together or a child-safe epoxy, such as an epoxy free of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), Bisphenol A (BPA) and other toxins. (Eco Epoxy is one good option.) Fill the brand-new planter with soil and plant a miniature tree, bush or even baby sunflowers in the tires.