Most children enjoy playing outdoors, creating masterpieces in the dirt and watching plants grow. While gardening is beneficial to people of all ages, children can learn new skills while growing their own food. Gardening teaches little ones responsibility, encourages physical activity, and promotes a love of nature.
Getting children involved in the garden does not require a significant investment. Containers, a watering can, a trowel and three-pronged fork, a scoop, and seeds are the essential tools to start gardening. Tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, cantaloupe, watermelon and flowers are easy to grow. The following tips can help make gardening with children fun:
- Give children tasks appropriate to their age and skill level. Children as young as three years old can help mulch or pull weeds. Older children can help design the layout of the garden.
- Divide space among the participants, so each person has his or her personal gardening area.
- Encourage your kids to dig in the dirt. Younger children can make mud pies while older siblings plant seeds. A ruler can help determine how deep to dig the holes.
- Plant flowers to decorate the garden or to attract butterflies. The sweet-smelling aromas and vibrant colors motivate kids to visit their garden.
- Demonstrate how to water with an adjustable water wand on a gentle setting. Don’t pull out the watering can until seedlings emerge from the soil.
- Teach kids how to dead-head flowers and look for bug infestations. You can do the dirty work, but they should know how to protect their crops.
- Use old clothes, a hat, a sturdy stick and bales of straw to build a scarecrow to watch over the garden. Take a picture of your handiwork to preserve the memory.
- Encourage them to give garden tours to friends and family. Take pictures of their harvest as evidence of their hard work.
- Make meals together with ingredients from the garden. Your harvest is the reward for a job well done.
In a world dominated by technology, gardening gives children a front row seat to observe the cycle of life. Growing food teaches patience and appreciation of what is to come when a seed is planted in the earth.