I’ve often found that, where there is dirt, the children will follow. Wouldn’t it be great if they were doing something productive while they ruin their latest pair of jeans? Well, they can. It’s called gardening for kids, and anyone can do it.
I love gardening for a myriad of reasons. It requires my children to enjoy the great outdoors. It teaches my them the science behind growing things. It encourages a love for healthy, organic produce. It creates a sense of gratitude for the food we eat, and fills them with the joy of accomplishment when they are able to pick and make use of something they worked so hard to cultivate.
Family gardening has changed dramatically over the years. Most of us don’t live on multi-acre farms where we grow our family’s entire food store. Our space is limited, and creativity is required to maximize our harvest. You need not go any farther than pinterest to find countless ideas for designing a garden that fits your location and house type. Regardless of the size, scope, or design you choose, make sure you include your children in the gardening adventure.
Here are 5 ways the kids can participate in your family gardening:
Dirt is the worlds oldest toy. My children would rather play in it than just about anything. Give them a small shovel or rake and let them play. They can soften and work the dirt, hunt for helpful earthworms, and relocate rocks from your garden bed to their “rare” stones collection. They’ll get dirty, but just think of the nap they will take afterwards and feel better.
My children look forward to visiting the plant store every spring. They search the shelves of sets for the tallest, best looking plants. They pursue seed stands for the brightest flowers and the best looking watermelons. Invariably, they start planning the perfect fall jack-o-lanterns when we pick out our pumpkins. Unbeknownst to them, they are learning they can start with something small, add some time and elbow grease, and end up with something great.
If there is something that rivals the fun of playing with dirt, it’s water. My children tend to find ways to play with water, regardless of where it is. Why not have them pouring it outside, on a plant, rather than all over the bathroom floor. They can pull on swim suits and have a grand, muddy adventure, or you can use it as a daily chore to teach responsibility and consistency.
Weeding is not my favorite gardening job, but, done correctly, it can be the setting for some fantastic family time. I love that it teaches my children to work, but it also allows me to demonstrate that work can be fun. We tell stories, sing crazy songs, and plan vacations while weeding together. We have contests to see who finishes first or who extracted the longest root. During harvest time, we snack while we work. Everyone hopes to be assigned to the strawberry patch.
The harvest is the grand finale to months of hard work and preparation. It has been celebrated across cultures and languages for many millennia. Children, like the rest of us, love to see the fruits of their labors, and gardening allows that in a very literal sense. Beyond the sense of pure accomplishment at harvest time, my children also reap the post-gardening benefit of appreciating a greater variety of vegetables and fruits. After all that work, they want to try it, and they want to like it. They don’t always, but the odds just went up substantially.
Whether you garden on acres with a tractor, in a 4’ X 4’ raised bed, or in pots by the window, find ways to include your children in the gardening process. In doing so you are planting beyond the tomato harvest later this summer. You are sowing the seeds of good health, hard work, and good ol’ fashioned gratitude in your little ones.