Preparing the Green Thumbs of the Future: Gardening for Kids
Kids love two things: candy and dirt! Nothing makes for a better day in the eyes of a kid than digging through your well manicured lawn or garden. Kids are natural gardeners, they just need to be pointed in the right direction. Now is the best time to help them develop a love of nature, gardening, and good old fashioned work while they are still amazed by the magic of Mother Nature. There are many ways to help teach gardening for kids without it becoming a chore. So find some kiddie gloves and little shovels and let the dirt fly (literally).
Who’s the Boss?
Kids prefer and often demand to be in charge. This is a great place to let them and the results will only be beneficial. Start by letting them pick out the seeds, and plants they want to grow. Help them plan their garden space (either their own plot or together with you). Introduce them to different gardening methods that they can try rather than just the boring row after row. As they manage the project they will be more invested in it and therefore will be more likely to follow it from sowing to harvest.
Think Outside the Box
Kids love discovering new thinks, especially about things that break the mold as they know it. Look for a different spin on the familiar produce. Purple and white carrots, yellow tomatoes, orange watermelon, or blue corn will just blow their minds. Go beyond your usual diet and look for new unusual crops to try each year – artichokes, bok choi, canary melons. Seed catalogues are filled with boggling varieties for them to try their hand at, which also means they’re much more likely to try their mouths at too.
Gardening is science and every kid is a scientist. There are so many experiments and lessons in the garden. Soil testing, light and water requirements, and soil acidity are just of few of the practical gardening considerations that make fabulous science lessons and will teach valuable gardening skills. The magic of nature’s processes is the best show. Growing your own starts, making a terrarium, and growing from ______ (where you grow from a piece of the original plant?) are just a few that are sure to captivate your young audience.
The Theme is….
Who says gardening is just about the end results. Pick a theme for the entire garden or for smaller sections. Have a favorites garden – ask family and friends what they’re favorite fruits or veggies are and plant those. Grow their favorite toppings or ingredients for a favorite pizza, soup, or salad. Think healthy and grow a rainbow, to create a harvest of rainbow crops for a healthy combination of fruits and veggies. I’ve even seen snowman gardens. Once the harvest is in their favorites will taste better than ever.
A Pinch to Grow an Inch
In a worlds where everything is taller than them, grow a garden that they can measure up to. Sunflowers are childhood staples and measuring them each week is a fun way to see your efforts rewarded. Using trellis, and poles the same can be done with any climbing veggie or flower. Take pictures and make a special scrapbook of them and their plant. Height isn’t the only way to grow! Measure the circumference of your melons and pumpkins, or bring out the scale for some ohh’s and aahhh’s.
All Fun and Games
Chores are boring, games are fun. As Mary Poppins would say a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down. Weeding is the antithesis of fun and what stops most eager new gardeners from progressing. Turn this chore into a game. Who can pull the most weeds in 10 minutes. Give each person a different type of weed to pull. Simply ask for a bouquet of dandelions or other invasive flowering plant.
Money by the Pound
Money is the best motivator. Help them start a produce stand. Whether selling at the local farmers market, or to kind neighbors; this will teach them valuable work, gardening, and business skills. Not only will they turn a crop, but a profit. You don’t have to sell your whole garden, it could simply be a single crop, like pumpkins or melons. Think of it as the new lemonade stand.
Play in the Garden
Most of us grow up hearing “STAY OUT OF THE GARDEN!” Not anymore, turn your garden into a playground. Use chicken wire to create the framework for a fort that your beans or peas can climb. Plant your corn or sunflowers into a mini maze or to create a hideout. Using vertical and container gardening you can have a lot of fun designing and growing your own secret garden. If you have little girls create a fairy garden complete with houses.
Part of what creates a love of gardening isn’t what you plant and how well it grew, but who you did it with. When memories are created in the garden among the peas and weeds, it becomes a special place for your child. Working in the garden can be the bonding experience that helps them thrive through those growing up years into adulthood. By gardening together as a family you don’t just grow plants you grow people.
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