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Children love mixing soil and water to-


gether into mud. When given a bucket of clay, soil and water, kids quickly discover they can use mud to paint, sculpt or make fantasy pies decorated with leaves, sticks or flowers. “Playing in mud fully engages the


senses, and there are studies that show it can benefit the immune system and make us happier,” says Leigh MacDonald-Rizzo, education director at the Ithaca Children’s Garden, in New York. References include the University of Bristol, UK, University of Colorado Boulder and University of California, Los Angeles. “Mud isn’t anything, really, and that


open-ended quality lends itself to joy- ously creative play that helps children develop a relationship with the natural world,” she says.


Top Tools for Kids Small children notice things close to the ground, which become even more interest- ing when seen through a magnifying glass. Sturdy kids’ versions in bright colors are easy to find if they get misplaced outdoors. Curious children love getting a close-


up look at worms and other critters in the worm bin or compost pile, or the structures inside flowers. “But when we just let the children explore, they’ll find loads of intriguing objects we may never have thought of, like water caught on the fuzzy underside of a leaf, a sparkly rock or


rough tree bark,” Cohen says. Children love to water plants, especially


during hot summer weather. Small watering cans that hold only a little water are easy for kids to handle and limit overdoing it. Water-filled spray bottles also encourage exploration while keeping kids cool. Digging to discover what’s under-


ground comes naturally to kids, and preschoolers do best with toy-size tools with short handles. Older kids can control child-size spades and rakes better than heavier adult tools.


Keeping Outdoor Space Safe Remove the worry from gardening with kids by minimizing safety risks. Replace poison- ous or prickly plants with vegetables, herbs or edible flowers and teach kids of all ages not to eat plants unless they have first been checked by an adult. Insects can be both interesting and


threatening, and flying insects oſten are at- tracted to bright colors. Dress kids in light, neutral colors to avoid unwanted attention from bugs. Avoid chemical fertilizers and sprays, and opt for organic solutions.


Barbara Pleasant has authored many green- thumb books including “Homegrown Pantry: Selecting the Best Varieties and Planting the Perfect Amounts for What You Want to Eat Year-Round”. She grows vegetables, herbs and fruits in Floyd, VA. Connect at BarbaraPleasant.com


www.freerice.com PLAYand feed


a hungry person In support of the


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or visit www.unitytriangle.org for more info or to reserve a space! July 2018 37


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