Growing Healthy and Happy Kids in the Garden ~ Gardening with Children
Gardening is a Pleasant Family Activity
Are you looking for a great family activity? Then look no further than your back yard and your local garden center. Gardening with kids is a fun activity with many different tasks to be done that will entertain kids of all ages, 1 to 101. Gardening is also educational. Kids are exposed to so many different things in a garden: soil and its preparation and why that is important, insect identification, the miracle of planting and watching the plants grow and produce, plant identification, plant care, pest control, composting, etc. And after harvest, the child can help with the vegetable’s preparation for a meal or preserving for later.
Different Types of Gardens
There are many different types of gardens that can be planted, depending on the location of your garden and its purpose.
- Flowers – annuals or perennials
- Mixed – a mixture of flowers, vegetables or herbs.
- Butterfly – growing plants that a beneficial to the full life cycle of the butterfly
- Hummingbird – growing flowers that attract hummingbirds
- Wildlife – growing plants that are beneficial to many different animals
Benefits of Working in a Garden
- Gardening is a great stress reliever.
- Gardening gets you and your child outside to enjoy the sunshine, the fresh air, and each other’s company.
- Gardening can be very educational. Learning the requirements of plants and what you can do to make soil improvements can be very educational for both you and your child.
- As children work in the garden, they will come across many different kinds of insects. Being around insects and interacting with them at an early age can teach them not to fear them. By providing your child with an insect field guide and fueling their interests, insects could become a hobby or even a career.
- A child will probably be more willing to eat their vegetables when they helped plant them, nurture them and harvest them. This process can provide satisfaction and achievement for your child.
Beginning to Garden with Your Child
The first garden for a younger child could be a container garden. It is easy for them to claim and it is also easy to maintain. As the child grows, so can their garden. Before you even start with the soil preparation, sit down with your child and plan their garden. Then let them take full responsibility for their little garden, from the soil preparation, to planting, to watering and weeding, and finally harvesting. If their garden is a small area in yours, then they can learn by watching you and practicing the same thing in their garden.
It is wise to start small so that the area they are caring for will be well tended. This will give them not only satisfaction, but success as well. For other gardening tips, check out, 10 Tips for Gardening with Kids ~ Gardening with Children.
If you live in an apartment or lack the space for a garden, container gardening may be your only choice. Many garden centers now offer plants that are specifically created just for this purpose, such as the ‘Tiny Tim’ tomato and the ‘Patio’ tomato. Many plants grow well in containers.
When you are helping your child choose plants for their garden, be sure to look for plants that are disease and pest-resistant.
When gardening with a child, it is best to remain organic. Since children love to touch and feel their environment and their little fingers often end up in their mouth, it is better to be safe.
Age and Abilities, Capabilities, and Responsibilities
Ages 2 to 4 – Soil preparation will be the most enjoyable part for this age group. A very small plot is adequate for this age – just enough for a few fast growing seeds such as radishes or carrots and a few tomatoes and/or pepper plants. Miniature varieties of many plants exist to make the garden more child friendly for this age group. This will be enough to keep them both fascinated and busy, and it will not overwhelm them. Children in this age group and above really enjoy the bright colored vegetables such as jewel-colored Swiss chard or flowering kale.
Ages 5 to 8 – As your child matures, their skill increases, and their interest in gardening grows, the size of their plot can also increase. During your garden planning session, help them to choose plants that they will have success with. Also choose plants that will appeal to their senses – sight, touch and smell. Children in this age group can begin growing the full size varieties. Herbs are really great for children to explore the world of smells and tastes. Be sure to plant sunflowers. The flowers follow the sun every day until their heads become so heavy with seed they cannot.
Ages 5 to 10 – Children in this age group who have been gardening will really begin to pick up on the different needs that various plants have. They will also begin to be able to identify beneficial insects from the harmful ones as well.
Ages 10 and up should be able to do a fairly large size plot and take full responsibility for their plot. This would include planning, planting, caring for and harvesting. With this accomplishment comes a sense of satisfaction and pride.
Kids Need Kid-Sized Gardening Tools
Additional Garden Tips
- By planting flowers in your garden such as marigolds, nasturtiums (which are edible) and sweet peas, you will be adding color and interest to your garden. These flowers will also draw pollinators into your garden, and some, like the marigold, will actually repel garden pests.
- Help your child create a gardening calendar to keep up with the tasks that have to be done in the garden. Watering and weeding the garden may not be as much fun as planning and planting, so a calendar will help them to remember these important tasks. They can find great satisfaction in marking off completed tasks. Be sure to notice when a task has been completed and to praise them for remembering. The calendar can be kept in your child’s room or on the refrigerator.
- Remember to include your children in fall gardening activities as well. In areas where it is extremely hot, such as in the southern states, fall gardening can be even more successful than spring gardening which tends to heat up too quickly for some plants that require cooler weather. Also consider planting some spring flowering bulbs such as crocuses, daffodils, tulips and hyacinths which are consider to be great for beginner gardeners.
- Smaller child-sized tools are easier for the child to handle and safer.
Indoor Winter Garden Activities
There are many gardening activities that can keep your child’s interest in gardening piqued even in the winter.
- Herbs can be grown indoors. They grow fast and they are tasty as well, and as long as they are kept trimmed and placed in a sunny window, they will continue to grow.
- Grow a sweet potato vine.
- Flower bulbs can be “forced” in the winter months indoors. See the video below.
Forcing Flower Bulbs
- Grow a pineapple. See YouTube video below. I learned a lot watching this video.
Unique Gardening Projects for Kids, With Your Help of Course
Wishing I Were a Kid Again .... with these wonderful and FUN gardening projects listed here!
A really fun gardening project for you and your child to create together could be a Sunflower or Bean Tepee Play House and another great example of a Sunflower Play House. Other fun playhouses for those who have the room could be a Living Willow Play House or this Living Willow Play House that reminds me of an American Indians Hogan.
Consider growing gourds in your garden. These can be painted and decorated as birdhouses. Another great activity the kids would enjoy! They can also be used as table decorations in the fall.
Other Gardening Activities Children Might Enjoy
- Racking leaves which can be a chore for adults can be lots of fun for kids, especially if they can jump in them a few times in the process.
- Making a scarecrow for their garden. Let them make one that is kid-sized using some of their old clothes!
- Creating and caring for a compost pile.
More than Plants can be Tended in a Garden
When you think about gardening, you may think of planting, caring for, and harvesting vegetables, or cut flowers. But when working in a garden with a child, you are also caring for and nurturing your child; and you are training them to be caregivers and nurturers as well.
Gardening helps children learn about responsibility, and accomplishment. It not only allows them to learn about their environment, it provides a working playground to learn without even realizing they are. Gardening is a great activity that grows more than plants – it grows relationships, and healthy, happy kids!
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Copyright © 2012 Cindy Murdoch (homesteadbound)
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