Sharing your garden with children can be a rewarding activity for both the child and the adult. Children have such a sense of wonder and watching them enjoy the growing process is such a treat! It helps to renew our own sense of awe at nature and the beauty of the earth around us.
Gardening with kids is a good way to teach children patience, after all gardening is not an activity that provides instant rewards. Kids will learn to nurture the plants and enjoy the thrill of seeing the first shoots of green poking up through the earth and the rewards of the first harvest.
But what are the best ways to involve kids in gardening? It all depends on the age of the children involved. Younger children will get distracted easily so it is best to start them with plants that have a shorter growing period such as bean seeds. Plant them in trays inside or even a paper cup set in a sunny window. In no time they will see the green shots coming up through the dirt.
Older kids can help with container and full size gardens. Allow them to help with all the stages of gardening from planning to harvest. Work side by side with them as you prepare the soil and plant the seeds. You can use the time as teaching moments – show them how different seeds look, talk about the different grow times of plants, etc. You can even use it as a time to explain the cycle of life and death.
Plant a variety of plants as you garden, flowers, herbs and vegetables. Plan your garden so there will always be something to harvest. If you plant sweet corn, plant a row a week so you will have delicious, fresh corn on the cob for several weeks. Ask your children what their favorite vegetables are then plant it and let them care for that crop.
Try teaching your children about natural methods of pest control. Explain the benefits of having certain bugs such as ladybugs and praying mantis in the garden. Many times kids mistakenly think that all bugs are bad, this is a good opportunity to teach them about beneficial insects.
You can even take your gardening one step further by teaching your children how to harvest the seeds to plant next year. Flowers are usually the easiest to get seeds from. However, you can harvest seeds from vegetables like corn without much trouble. Allow some of the cobs of corn to dry and then knock the corn out and store in a cool dry place for planting next year.
As you can see, gardening with children can be an educational experience. In addition, you will develop a stronger bond with your kids and they will learn about nature and gain a greater appreciation for where their food comes from. Gardening with kids is a richly rewarding experience for everyone!