Planting Seeds: Gardening with Kids

September 1, 2018

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gardening with kids

How can parents who love to work in the dirt make sure that gardening with kids is fun and enjoyable, too?  Here are some tips to help.

 

Kids love to play in the dirt!  Working in a garden, parents and children can bond while cultivating a love of the natural world, as well as a sense of responsibility, independence, and an awareness of where food comes from.   Young gardeners can experience the satisfaction of caring for something over time, and eating the delicious fruit of their efforts.  It can also root in them the knowledge of the importance the environment plays in everyday life.

It’s a life-long activity that will reap innumerable benefits, not least of which is a sense of deep down well-being.

Just look at the happy backyard farmers in this picture!

gardening with kids

My sister (my TWIN sister, there on the right, if you can believe it!  I’m on the left, and my dad is in the middle) sent me this photo awhile ago, and I keep coming back to it.  Judging by my bangs and my finely-honed, slightly bored smirk, this was late summer right before my eighth grade year of school.

If I remember correctly, we had been commanded to spend the day helping my parents clean up the vegetable garden in the backyard instead of what we would have preferred doing, which was probably watching MTV.  Or having 3-way-telephone calls.  I’m old now and for the life of me I can’t quite remember what 13-year-old girls were doing back in 1996.

I guess it doesn’t really matter though, because whatever it was, we weren’t doing it.  We were helping.  In the garden.

{Insert dramatic teenage groan here}

It wasn’t all bad though, and something, somehow, must have clicked for me during all that forced gardening in my childhood and adolescence.  Now, I love nothing better than working out in the dirt, weeding and sifting rock and helping things to grow!

Small seeds planted by my parents eventually took root and flourished in me.  Granted, it took a pretty long time.  I didn’t willingly start my own garden until I was 21 years old.  But the seeds were there all along.

Any parent knows that small things you do now can last a lifetime with your child.  So, how can you instill a love of the natural world and still make gardening with kids fun for everyone, parents included?  Here’s four easy tips to get you started!

Create a Space Just For Them

A sense of ownership is a powerful thing.  Give your kids a part of the garden all their own, or even just a small container.  Letting them have the power to decide what to grow and where will give them a greater sense of responsibility.  Plus, it’s neat to see how and what they decide to do with their space.

Giving them their own area will also help to get them acquainted with the rules of growing things, and a chance for them to get their hands dirty without endangering the rest of your garden!

Use Lots of Color

Making things colorful is a really easy way to engage young children.  There’s just something about those bright colors that speaks to them! 

Help them choose different colored flowers from the nursery and design parts of the garden to make it as vibrant and visually appealing as possible.  How about a rainbow of zinnias?  Painted stone plant markers or terra cotta pots?  Whatever you do, just remember – the brighter, the better!

Make it Fun

Obviously kids don’t want or need to know about fertilizer dealer supply or any of the other technical aspects of keeping a large farm or a small garden going.  Instead, focus on making it as entertaining for them as possible.

Introduce competitions like scavenger hunts, plant a pizza garden, ask them to pick flowers with interesting or unusual names, or have them help you decorate the garden.  Avery and Iris loved helping me hang flag bunting around the garden for a birthday party, and then wouldn’t let me take it down!

You could also help them grow their own playhouses.  One of the things I remember loving the most in my childhood garden was the sunflower house.  Just grow any tall sunflower types ( American Giant is one of the best) in a circle about 4 feet in diameter, and then tie the tops together when they grow to make a hut.  It’s what childhood dreams are made of!

Show Them the Fruits of Their Labors

If you really want your children to love gardening, you’ve got to give them a good reason.  Make sure to show them what they get out of it.

Have them pick the strawberries they grew in their garden and then help them turn it into a delicious strawberry shortcake.  Point out how much the birds love to eat the sunflower seeds from their sunflower hut.  Show them how reusing all the scraps when they eat apples can turn garbage into something useful. 

It’s not something that can be done overnight, but if you can get your children involved in gardening, even just in a small way, it will benefit both your relationship and their lives in the long run.

I’ll try to remember that every time I see a face like this:

gardening with kids

Planting seeds.

I’m just planting those seeds.

 

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2 Comments

  • ruthsoaper

    September 1, 2018 at 5:39 pm

    I love this! Unfortunately my kids were teenagers before we really started gardening / farming and they had “better” things to do. Now I tell people “if you want your kids to get a job/move out become a garlic farmer and put them to work”. LOL. None of my young adults really have an interest in gardening but like you mentioned the seeds have been planted. I think the real lesson is to start when they are young.

    1. lacey

      September 1, 2018 at 8:56 pm

      lol. I bet one day they will feel an urge to plant something, and then it will be like an avalanche! I’m so glad you liked the post!

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