Kids are natural gardeners. They’re curious, like to learn by doing, and love playing in the dirt. Working in a garden, a child can experience the satisfaction that comes from caring for something over a long time, and observe the cycle of life firsthand. Gardening is also an effective way to teach environmental awareness by exploring the workings of nature.
Introducing youngsters to gardening and keeping them interested is a big challenge for many parents. Here we give a few pro tips to help get your children involved (and keep them interested) in gardening:
Step 1: Start with a story.
Children love books, especially picture books. Choose a selection of books that focus on different veggies you may plant, the process of gardening, and the overall impact that a garden can have on your family, community, and the environment. Books can grow the seed of excitement in your kids for starting her own garden.
Step 2: Give kids a patch of their own.
Set up a patch, or a container, that your child can plan and care for herself. When choosing a spot try raised beds and containers. It’s easy for little arms to reach into sow and harvest and they are easy to maintain. And if it’s a larger patch, you can put in stepping stones for ease of movement. To avoid the “out of sight, out of mind” problem and encourage your child to spend time in “her” garden, put it somewhere easy to see and get to.
Step 3: Help them choose easy and fun plants.
Plants that grow quickly are really rewarding for children who can become impatient easily. Sunflowers grow quickly, seemingly before your eyes, and have large seeds that are easy for children to plant. Let your child plant a row of sunflowers in a sunny spot and count the days until they grow taller than your child! Plus, the large blooms will attract all sorts of pollinators to your garden.
Sugar snap peas and cherry tomatoes are other favorites, as they can be harvested early in the year, are easy for little fingers to grab, and they don’t require much work. Cucumber plants are a great idea for a new garden. They make kids delightful and can be served in many different ways. Pumpkins, gourds, and squash are also super fun if you have enough space, and the kids learn patience in waiting for them to mature.
Step 4: Give them the gardening tools.
Provide the kids with gardening tools that are specially made for them. This includes gloves that fit their tiny hands and other hand tools. With watering cans, it is best to choose one that is light. Or you can give them a hose with a spray gun attachment. Who doesn’t love a water gun with never ending flow? Remember that you don’t need to buy every product out there. If each kid has one dedicated piece of gardening equipment of their own, it helps to foster a sense of excitement about using it.
Step 5: Let Them Make Decisions.
Don’t build a garden for your child but with them so that they’ll gain a sense of pride, ownership, and accomplishment that grows with the plants. Even if their contribution isn’t the slightest bit helpful, involvement will make them care. So if your child want to sow seeds in a haphazard wavy line and not the recommended straight line that you suggested, let them.
Give your child full control over the look of their space and where they want to plant things, just be there to guide them and lend a helping hand. This will aid them gain a better appreciation as the garden becomes not just yours, but theirs as well! They’ll feel a connection with their garden and everything it produces.
Step 6: Allow your child to explore the plants with all their senses.
Children naturally are curious about their surroundings and want to use all their senses to experience the world. So, if you are growing vegetables, let the kids sample the exquisite taste of freshly picked produce. What is sweeter than peas straight from the pod? You can also encourage them to smell herbs and flowers. Have them rub in their fingers and smell rosemary, lemon verbena or garden mints. Take them to your local botanical gardens, nurseries, or even the farmers market and allow them to just experience.
Step 7: Connect it to their interests.
Gardening is a wonderful hobby for your children because it can apply to so many personalities. Children are much more likely to enjoy activities that relate to their interests. If your child likes science, teach them about the science and biology of plants. If your daughters enjoy dressing things up, teach them know that how plants can beautify a space and be used for decorating their room.
Step 8: Record the pro-cress!
Create a photo diary as a way to ensure your budding gardeners stay involved! Take pictures along the way and keep a check on how your plants are growing, that way when your flowers are blooming or your vegetable patch is ready to eat you can show your children how well they’ve done. They started with a seed and now have a row of beautiful sunflowers.
Step 9: Eat the fruits of your labors.
Children will get first-hand experience of the food cycle if they see what they grew on the dinner table. So, cook a tasty meal and let your kid help in preparing it. Perhaps Margherita pizza with basil and tomatoes. Scrub carrots for your quick snack. Or strawberries for the breakfast cereal.
Use these tips to help encourage your kids to garden, and remember that forcing them to do something is the quickest way to dull their interest in it. You’re creating memories – for your child AND for you. Help her to see the magic and amazing properties of nature at work as it takes a seed to something edible and delicious, or pretty enough for display on your dining room table. You’ll love the experience, and so will she.
Your turn! Did you love the article? What gardening projects do you want to try – or have you done – with your kids? Let us know in the comments.
About The Author
Evan is a garden blogger at aboutgardentool.com. This garden blog is where he can be himself, share his passion and learn as much as he can about gardening!