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Self-Guided Family Play and Exploration: Seeds

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Course description

An apple is cut in half to show the star hidden inside.

Seeds are energy powerhouses! They contain everything a plant needs to begin growing, except for sunlight and water. Some seeds, like avocado pits, are large; others, like marigold or poppy seeds, are small. Some seeds are green (lentils), others are brown (chestnuts), yellow (mustard), or red (pomegranates). Explore the incredible diversity of these mini superheroes that turn into the many plants we enjoy, with these activity suggestions from our early childhood team:


Take a closer look at the fruits you have at home – most have seeds that can be counted, compared, and contrasted! Gather any fruits you can find and investigate together the many different shapes, colors, sizes, and numbers of seeds you eat every day. Cut into fruits like apples, lemons, blueberries, or grapes, and use tweezers or other tools to remove some of the seeds. Ask your child to sort the seeds in whatever way makes sense to them and then to describe their thought-process to you. Investigate the seeds of a tomato, pepper, or cucumber, and wonder together – are these vegetables, fruits, or both?

A variety of fruits are cut in half to show the seeds inside.


Make a unique mosaic with seeds you find in your pantry or garden seed packets! Dried beans, peas, lentils, or peanuts are the seeds of legumes. Rice, wheat, corn, or oats are cereal seeds. Other seeds you might already have around the house include walnuts, pecans, sunflower seeds, or pumpkin seeds. Collect a variety of seeds (depending on the age of your child, ensure that the seeds are not a choking hazard), offer your child a fabric “canvas” (a darker piece of cloth or felt allows the colors of the seeds to really pop), model a mosaic arrangement, and then let your child’s eyes, hands, and imagination take over. Take a photo of the finished piece and share it with others!

A variety of mosaics made from seeds.


Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert. Available in print or electronically.
The vibrant colors and large illustrations in this book will inspire even the youngest readers to get their hands dirty and plant their own rainbow – whether in the garden or in a container!

Front cover of the book, "Planting a Rainbow.

Seeds and Trees by Brandon Walden and illustrated by Kevin Howdeshell. Available in print or electronically.
This book about the power of words and friendship to support healthy growth may be especially appreciated by older preschoolers and elementary school-aged children as they learn to play and cooperate with others and become aware of their friends’ feelings and actions.

Front cover of the book, "Seeds and Trees".


Get your garden or containers ready for spring planting! Dress to get dirty, then head outside to turn the soil with garden spades, dig out last year’s plant remnants, and measure and divide the garden plot into sections. Rake together to create rows for seeds to plant when the temperatures get warmer.

Or simply give your child a few containers, some soil, and a trowel, and see what happens! You can even add water, paint brushes, and scrap paper for some mud-painting!

Planting seed in a loaf pan filled with soil.

For Older Siblings

If it is too early in the season to plant directly in your garden or outdoor container (look up your region’s predicted last spring freeze on maps such as this one), you can give your seeds a head start in a mini-greenhouse built from a milk jug!

Wash out a plastic milk gallon container, and then ask an adult to cut most of the way through the container in the middle, leaving enough for a “hinge” that can be opened and closed, as depicted in the picture below.

A milk jug cut in half and propped up with a branch is being used as a mini greenhouse.

Cut drainage holes in the bottom by inserting a knife and twisting a little. Fill the bottom of the container with a layer of seed-starting soil, potting soil, or garden soil, and then plant seeds from a cool weather crop, like lettuce or spinach, or any seeds you have on hand. Water it lightly and place it outside in a sunny or partly sunny spot.

Open the greenhouse hinge during warmer days and close it at night or during colder temperatures. Cover your greenhouse with a blanket at night if there is danger of frost, and keep the soil moist but not soggy. The seedlings of most lettuce varieties will emerge within one to two weeks, and you should be able to harvest the first leaves within 30 to 45 days. You have just grown your own food from seed!


Self-Guided Family Play and Exploration: Seeds