Gardening With Your Kids: Getting Their Hands Dirty
A garden for kids teaches patience and cooperation while they learn about caring for the natural world. Here are some tips to get your kids started in the garden.
If you love to garden, you know how hard it is to keep little fingers and hands from ‘helping’. Instead of battling your kids, invite them into your garden world.
When my older daughter was 3, she pulled up all my new bean plants. I was having a hard time getting things planted as it was, since she was so high maintenance. The bean plant episode was my breaking point.
Starter garden for kids
I gave her a small corner of the garden, some seeds, and some starts. I even painted a sign that stated it was her garden. I told her she could do whatever she wanted in her garden, including pulling up her bean plants, but she was to leave my space alone.
That was a great success all season! We flood irrigated, and she’d take buckets of water to pour on her already submerged plants. She dug and weeded all summer, and eventually picked her own beans. In August, she had beautiful sunflowers to show off!
Aside from keeping your gardens tidy and productive, allowing children their own garden has many benefits. In this day and age of sitting with computers, tablets, phones, and tv, gardening gets kids up and moving. Exercise and fresh air are good for their physical and mental health.
Children are like sponges, too. They will absorb anything you teach them. By nature, they are curious, so they will want to know more about whatever you have to offer. Working outside, they learn respect for the natural world, and consequently they will want to care for it. That’s a wonderful thing to teach young children in this era.
Kids playing in dirt and water are happy kids! Who doesn’t like to play in the mud? They have fun while they are unknowingly learning about plants, soil, bugs, the weather, and ecology.
Children learn to be patient while they watch something grow. Gardening builds confidence when they need to solve problems and work with others. These are valuable lessons they will carry throughout their lives.
It’s easy for young children to get overwhelmed, so make the first garden small. Maybe you can upcycle the sandbox into a raised bed. That’s the perfect size. Even a flowerbox or a few containers can grab a child’s interest.
The younger they are, the larger the seeds should be, and the smaller the choices of plants. Under 4, they can easily handle seeds of peas, nasturtiums, sunflowers, and beans. One or two starter plants are enough. Older kids can plant a larger selection of plants in a bigger garden.
Have them keep a garden journal. The youngest ones can draw while older ones can get more detailed about their completed garden chores. A written account is also tangible proof of their accomplishment. At the end of the season, children can look back at all they did and see what their hard and persistent work produced.
Plants to grow
A good variety of plants should appeal to their senses – the texture of fuzzy leaves, the visual interest of patterned beans, multi-colored greens and lettuces, fragrant flowers and herbs, twining vines, and bold colored flowers. Choose fast growing plants and foods they like to eat. Their garden has to relate to them for them to be interested in caring for it and getting the most out of it.
|Vegetables||Flowers||Herbs and foliage plants|
pumpkins – think Halloween!
Use plants that attract pollinators, or build a bee hotel. Butterflies and bees are beautiful, fun to watch, and a crucial part of the planet. Pollination is responsible for food and seed production. A bee on a flower is a simple way to teach that lesson!
I always encourage organic gardening, but with children, it’s even more important. They will put leaves, flowers, dirt, and their fingers in their mouths. Don’t let them ingest toxic chemicals!
Most of all, have fun with your children! They are eager to do what you do and learn what you know. Go out in the yard, and enjoy the simple wonders of a garden with them. I’m sure they will show you the magic in it.