Gardening With Kids
Kids love to get dirty and watch things grow, so gardening seems to be a natural activity for them to do. It teaches them so many things: the wonder of nature and the caring of living things, not to mention environmental science and the effects we have on our environment. But the real reason kids like gardening is because it's fun! Who doesn't want to play in the garden on a beautiful day and get their hands dirty?
Here are a few ideas to get your kids involved in the garden:
- Give them a gardening area of their own. Allow them to plant what they want there, but also require them to do the watering and weeding. Giving them control of their little garden area also teaches responsibility and cause and effect.
- Get them in on the garden planning. Kids have great ideas when it comes to gardening (and cooking for that matter!) They may come up with things you never thought of.
- Give them large seeds to plant- squash, morning glories, beans and corn are all easy for little fingers to handle. One of my happiest memories in the garden was planting beans with Beau when he was 2. He couldn't reach where he needed to plant from the garden walkway, so I picked him up, held him over the spot, and he dropped the beans in. We laughed and laughed.
- Keep the garden kid-friendly- Don't plant anything that could be poisonous if eaten, particularly things such as castor beans (it only takes a few to poison an adult, and the beans are beautiful- they could easily be mistaken for a treat). Make wide paths for them to walk easily in the garden without falling on the plants (they still will, but if the paths are obvious, there's a better chance they'll keep to them). Don't forget to fence off stuff you REALLY don't want to get stepped on. And don't forget to pick up t hings they could get hurt on- tools, discarded fencing, etc.
- Make it fun! Make a teepee out of sticks and plant red runner beans to grow around the teepee. This makes a great kid hidout in the summer (don't plant anything in the teepee- it will get squashed beneath the kids!) Kids also love planting sunflowers, and you can make a "sunflower house" by planting the sun flowers with some space in the middle (a circle or square pattern) and then adding a roof of sticks once the sunflowers are big. Corn mazes are fun if you have the room and the corn. Cut a maze into the maize (ha ha) while the corn is young. By the time it grows big, you've got a really cool pattern.
- Give them a spot to dig. When Beau was little, he'd sit out in the garden with me for hours, as long as he had a place to dig with his little bulldozers and dump trucks. Nothing ever grew there, but he was so happy in his corner of the garden!
- Let them explore. My oldest son Sean loves to watch the bugs. He'll pick them up, examine them, put them in a jar and observe them, then let them go. He and Beau can spend hours "hunting bugs" in the garden and watching them. Connor prefers butterflies, but hasn't learned that he is too short to catch one yet.
- Start some gardening traditions that include the kids. We grow pumpkins every year and carve them up on Halloween. We look forward to this- it's a lot of fun. This year we're also growing birdhouse gourds. One year we grew mini gourds of all sizes and shapes and painted them for halloween. We made funny pumpkins, witches, Frankensteins, and ghosts. What fun!