Several nonelectronic options make good gifts for little ones

Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Paul Schnare shows his grandsons Coby Siebert, left, and Kory Siebert, how to start seed germination in a paper towel. (Fred Lynch)

We recently had a power outage in Cape Girardeau that lasted several hours. A day later I was talking with the father of a 6-year-old. Dad's comment was that his son became distraught when he realized that he couldn't play with his DS (he couldn't recharge the battery) or play a video game online or on the television screen. He was simply beside himself because there was no electronic entertainment available.

It is the Christmas season. Of course, being grandparents of three, Grandmother and I are looking for that special gift (or two, or three, or four) for each one. We have in the past presented our cherubs with electronic toys so that they could keep up with their peers. Perhaps it is time for us to give them at least one gift that will keep them grounded in reality. So here are some suggestions.

* Buy your child or grandchild a pack of lima bean seeds. They are large seeds, so your child can see them develop. Have the child place a few seeds between paper towels on a saucer. Then moisten the paper towels. Next, place the saucer in the kitchen cabinet where it will be in the dark.

Have your child check the paper towels every day to make sure they remain moist. After a few days, your child can see how a seed swells up during the germination process. Wait a few more days, and your child can see how roots develop, as well as plant stems and leaves. Since they have been grown in the dark the stem will be white.

Finally take the bean plant out of the paper towel and plant it in a small pot of potting mix. Place the potted plant in a sunny area of your home. Your child can now watch the white stem and leaves turn green.

* Another project is to purchase a tropical indoor plant such as a pothos. Your child will now have a living plant that requires attention in the form of watering, feeding with fertilizer, pruning and cleaning. What a neat way to instill in your child the concept of responsibility. You can do this with a pet also, but plants stay put and don't make piles of daily doo.

* If you have a small sunny area in the back yard, present your child with some tools for them to use next spring. Then next spring, help them spade up an area and plant a garden. Their persistence will be rewarded with edibles and beautiful flowers. They will remember this all of their lives.

* Perhaps your child is into wildlife. Give them an inexpensive pair of binoculars, a bird identification booklet and a bird feeder to hang in a tree or shrub in the backyard. Show them how to put feed in the feeder, and how to learn to identify what birds come to the feeder. Have them record when what bird comes to the feeder.

* If your child is into board or card games, give gifts of puzzles, board games or cards that are imprinted with pictures of wildlife and plants. They can have fun while also learning to identify natural flora and fauna.

Electronic gifts are important because we are in an electronic age. Yet it is important that we teach our children something about nature. You can do this with very simple and inexpensive gifts. In addition, the most important gift is the time you spend with that child. Merry Christmas!

Send your gardening and landscape questions to Paul Schnare at P.O. Box 699, Cape Girardeau, MO 63702-0699 or by email to

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