Making a sundial garden is an easy and educational project to do with your kids. Creating the garden introduce kids to the concept of telling time by the sun. With a sundial garden children can use their body to tell time based on the position of the sun and their garden. By marking the hours, much like a clock marks the hours, with plants or markers in a specifically laid out garden, children can use their shadow anytime during the day to be able to tell time without looking at a watch. It really is a fun and interactive way for children to garden and learn about time, the sun and the importance of measurements.
Tips for Creating a Kid’s Sundial Garden
Use these tips to create a sundial garden, with children. You don’t need a lot of space, but the bigger the better.
Find a Full Sun Area
Because you need the sun to help you create and use this garden, you need a full sun location that is not blocked by buildings or trees. Children need to be able to use their shadow to correctly tell the time, and if their shadow is blocked out by the shadows of trees or the house there is no way they can identify it.
Lay out Round Garden Bed
Like a clock the sundial garden is going to be round. Once you have your full sun location, clear out a round garden bed where you can add plantings and markers. Ten to twelve feet across is ideal, but you can divide this in half and still get the same results that children are able to use. Remember the bigger the garden, the more space you are going to need to fill in with flowers or garden covering.
Select Hour Markers
Plant or other markers are needed to mark the place of each hour on the face of your sundial. If you are going to fill the entire garden with flowers, make sure that the flowers used to mark the hours are different than the rest of the flowers used in the garden– all the same color or bigger than the rest of the flowers used in the garden. If you decide to make more durable hour markers, such as diagonally cut logs (as shown above) or pieces of slate, inexpensive house numbers are a great choice for denoting the hours on them. A few simple sticks will do the job though.
Determine Noon and Set Garden
To set the garden, first determine the center of your garden. At noon, have your child stand in the center of the garden and place a marker on the ground at the exact point where the top of their shadow hits, or if your garden bed is a small one, place the marker where the edge of the garden meets their shadow. From this one point children can determine where the rest of the hour markers need to be placed by dividing the garden into 12 hours. Discuss how many hours are in a day and how many hours are on a clock. Mark out 6 first, because it is directly across from 12, then have them divide into quarters and mark off 3 and 9. Fill in from there.
Once your sundial has been marked out, its time to plant. If you are using plants to serve as the markers, plant those first. Fill in garden sections around the markers. If you are using stone markers to indicate the hours, set those in place first and then plant around them. Make sure to leave a way for children to reach the center of the sundial and set a large paver in the center for them to stand on.
Practice Using the Sundial
Practice using the sundial with children, by testing it out against a clock in the home. Randomly choose an hour to send them outside to verify their sun measurement using their own shadow. This also opens the discussion about how the length of the shadow changes as the season wears on, and why it does so. Actively get kids used to using the clock to determine time, “You can play outside till your shadow hits 3.” With constant use of the sundial, children will eventually gain the skill of being able to tell time according to the sun, without the need of their sundial.