Instilling a love of gardening in children starts by ensuring that their initial foray is pleasant and safe. A few common sense rules can ensure that gardens are danger-free zones full of life, food, flowers and fun. Parents and other adults can lead first by example, taking proper precautions with their tools and their chemicals, but they can also keep a watchful eye and offer warnings when necessary to their young charges.
A well-protected child begins with a well-protected garden. While fencing around the garden may be a worthwhile precaution it does not substitute for adult supervision. Particularly for young children, knowing where they are and what is piquing their interest is a good way to keep them safe and guide them through and around any gardening pitfalls.
Keep the Water Away
Flower gardens are often part of architecturally landscaped designs that may include ponds and waterfalls. Small children may be fascinated with the koi in your man-made pond, but their curiosity can turn tragic with a slip of a sandal.
A Place for Everything
Putting your tools away not only sets a good gardening example, it also ensures that your young helper doesn't try to handle tools beyond his ken. Power tools, in particular, should never be left unattended where a child might think he's ready to mow the lawn or trim the bushes.
Child's Own Tools
Getting tools that are a fit to small hands can prevent cuts and bruises. Tot-sized gloves will also protect her hands against naturally occurring dangers like fungi and poisonous plants and residual chemicals that may be present in the garden.
Teach About Plants and Pests
Children need to recognize danger to avoid it. Knowing which pests can harm them, like wasps, bees and biting ants, is an important safety measure. Since there are many poisonous plants that look appealingly harmless, teaching children which plants to avoid can do more than just prevent an annoying prick or itch; it could save a life. The berries from the Daphne shrub can kill if ingested, and daffodils, chrysanthemums, elderberry, foxglove, and the hyacinth are all poisonous.
Even if they've properly donned their gloves, washing up after gardening is a safety must for children. Just as they need to wash away household germs, they need to get the garden germs off their hands, skin and clothes. The urushiol oil from poison ivy can remain active on any surface for years.