April and May are my favorite months to start sprouting vegetable seeds, and one of my favorite activities is planting peas with children. It started several years ago when I would do this activity with my own kids' classrooms, and now I've taught over 5,000 students, from pre-school to middle school, how to sprout and grow sugar snap pea seeds.
1. One cup per child
2. Newspaper (1 "half" page for each child)
3. Sugar snap pea seeds (2 for each child)
How to Plant. First, crumple up your newspaper inside the cup. Second, place a pea seed on each side of the cup (just for room to grow) between the newspaper and the cup (you could use one seed; I prefer to have two seeds as a back up!). Third, water the newspaper with about a quarter cup of water (basically, so the newspaper stays moist). If there is standing water in the cup, that is too much; simply pour excess water out.
How to Maintain. Place the cup on a sunny windowsill where you can see the cup each day and have your child touch the newspaper to see if it is still moist. When you notice the newspaper is drying out (likely every 3 -4 days), have your child squeeze a wet paper towel over the newspaper to re-moisten it. Your pea seed should sprout in 3-7 days. Within 2 weeks, your pea plant will start to climb; place a stick in the cup for support. Within 6-8 weeks, the plant will produce flowers from which the pea pods will start to grow (the best sight of all!). The newspaper with the seeds can be transplanted at any time to a sunny location into soil in a container or in the ground (peas grow at 40+ degrees Fahrenheit) and 6-8 hours of sun. Keep soil moist, but allow water to drain. Determine how often to water by checking soil daily with your finger (an inch+ down in the soil where the roots are). Kids love to do this!
My book, 15 Minutes Outside: 365 Ways to Get Out of the House and Connect with Your Kids has many activities for fun and easy planting with your kids. Here is a quick reference index of some activities for you:
p.19 "Explore the Plant Lifecycle with Your Kids"
p.36 "Sunny Science with Newspaper"
p.51 "Build a Raised Vegetable Bed"
p.53 "Plant Peas"
p.63 "How to Plant Vegetables in Containers"
p.65 "Make a Perennial Garden"
p.87 "Plant Your Summer Vegetables" and "Turn Your Vegetable Garden Over to Your Kids"
p.179 "Harvest Your Own Seeds"
No matter how you explore the plant lifecycle, give you and your child permission to experiment and have fun! Some experiments work and some won't, and you learn each time.
Why do I keep planting with kids? Kids are fantastic, intelligent, and curious sponges. They are fully present in whatever they do. Every child deserves to learn the life skill of growing food, and planting sugar snap pea seeds is such an easy, inexpensive science lesson with a sweet result at the end.
About Rebecca P. Cohen
Rebecca P. Cohen believes time outside transforms our lives for the better. PJ's Backyard Adventures is the latest project from Rebecca, author of the book 15 Minutes Outside: 365 Ways to Get Out of the House and Connect with Your Kids (Sourcebooks), and creator of Rebecca Plants Curiosity Cards. Rebecca’s work has been featured in countless media outlets, including USA Today, Parenting, Redbook, Working Mother, and Family Circle. In addition, Rebecca has appeared on live morning news shows around the country, and is also host of the video series, Get Out of the House, which shows fun ideas for time outside in every season. For Rebecca's inspiring blog and free downloads, visit BeOutsideAndGrow.com.