Want to teach your kids to reduce food waste and also how to grow potatoes at home? Check out this simple outdoor science activity to identify and visualize the life cycle of potatoes and learn how to grow your own scrumptious spuds, even if you don’t have a lot of space to garden with kids!
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While prepping for dinner, you open the bottom kitchen cabinet to pull out some potatoes, only to discover that the potatoes are staring back at you!
Okay… they’re not REALLY staring, but the potatoes have sprouted “eyes” – the common term for the little stem buds that develop on potatoes when they are stored in conditions that wake them from their dormant state (think warm, dark, and humid – quite possibly the exact description of your kitchen cabinet).
Despite looking a little funny, don’t let those sprouting potatoes go to waste. As long as the potatoes are still firm and aren’t green, you could simply remove the sprouts and carry on with your cooking plans. However, you can also capitalize on this excellent learning opportunity and teach your kids how to grow potatoes from eyes.
Why Grow Food From Scraps With Kids
According to Feeding America, people in the United States waste 108 billion pounds of food each year. That equates to $161 billion worth of food and nearly 40% of the food produced in this country. The United Nations Environment Program found that nearly ⅓ of all food produced globally for humans, or 1.3 billion tonnes of food, is wasted each year. That’s crazy (and quite frankly, incredibly disappointing).
When we teach children about the life cycle of food production and how to grow food at home, we help them appreciate all the resources and energy needed to grow food and also why it’s so important not to waste it. We also help them become more responsible and environmentally-conscious producers and consumers of food when we show them how to reduce food waste and make the most of the food that comes into our kitchens.
Growing food from scraps, or potatoes from eyes in this case, is a simple and inexpensive way to introduce children to growing their own food and teach them about the life cycle of a potato.
Educational Lessons Learned By Growing A Potato From Eyes
As you guide your young gardeners through the process of how to plant a potato from eyes, discuss with them the benefits of growing their own food and avoiding food waste. Explain how regrowing vegetables:
- Creates nutritious food from limited resources.
- Saves money by not having to purchase that food from a store.
- Avoids greenhouse gas emissions associated with the transportation of potatoes to your local grocery store.
- Avoids production of greenhouse gases from the decomposition of the potato in a landfill.
Beyond the environmental and financial benefits of growing food from scraps, it’s also fun to grow your own food right in your own backyard or on your back porch! It’s a great sensory experience for kids to dig their hands into the dirt. And there’s even scientific evidence that a special bacteria in the soil makes you happier.
How To Grow Potatoes From Eyes
You don’t need a big backyard or a fancy garden to grow your own potatoes from eyes. You can grow potatoes in a bag, a bucket, or any similar container. You could also grow potatoes in a small plot in your garden or yard. Pack your potato growing container with loose soil and a bit of water, and it will be a great home for the potato eyes you found in your kitchen cabinet.
Materials To Grow Potatoes From Eyes
We always encourage responsible consumption and use of whatever materials you already have on hand. A canvas bag, a bucket with some holes on the bottom, a crate with a liner, or just about any container that holds at least one cubic foot of soil will do the job.
If you don’t have anything on hand, we are big fans of Gardener’s Supply company. This is their exclusive potato grow bag, and it comes in several colors. They even have an entire Gardener’s Best® Potato Success Kit that includes a grow bag, potting soil, and fertilizer. Just add your seed potatoes (those potatoes staring at you from your cabinet), and you’ll be ready to grow.
Are you ready to get started and regrow potatoes from those eerie eyes staring back at you from your kitchen cabinet? Head over to Thoughtfully Sustainable to access the free, step-by-step lesson guide and printable worksheet to learn about the life cycle of a potato, how to grow potatoes from scraps, and why it’s important to reduce food waste at home.
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About The Author
Jess Purcell, a co-founder of Raising Global Kidizens, is a science educator who is dedicated to making the science of sustainability accessible to all learners. She creates sustainability science lessons and nature activities written for students of all ages to be done in the classroom or at home to foster critical thinking skills and a love of the natural world. You can find more of her work at Thoughtfully Sustainable.
Jess lives in central Pennsylvania with her husband, two kids, and two cats and can usually be found outside, working out the kinks of an experiment, upcycling trash into “treasure”, hiking with her family, or attempting to read a book while being cajoled into a game of hide-and-seek.