There are many benefits to gardening with kids! Here are a few tips and ideas to help everyone enjoy the garden together…
Gardening with your children is a great way to spend some quality time together, reconnect with nature, get some exercise, and have fun while learning! Not only will you be able to teach your child about the natural world and the importance of sustainable living, but you’ll also enjoy a number of other benefits as well.
4 Benefits of Gardening With Kids
1. Improve your family’s eating habits. Your kids will be more excited about eating fruits and vegetables that they’ve grown themselves – trust me. The anticipation of harvesting will make them want to try new foods, and broaden their palates to include more healthy foods.
2. Become more environmentally conscious. TV and the internet keep kids indoors far too much of the time these days. Working in the dirt with plants and insects is a valuable reminder about our dependence upon the natural world, and how much value it provides us!
3. Get more physical activity. Sedentary lifestyles put kids at risk of becoming overweight. Planting and weeding are great ways to integrate more activity into daily routines, without necessarily feeling like you’re “exercising.”
4. Reinforce a sense of gratitude. It’s easy to forget all the effort that goes into producing the food we eat if we just order it online or pick it up at the store. Even a small venture into agriculture can increase our appreciation for the work involved in bringing food to the table.
A Few Tips for Gardening With Younger Children
1. Let kids assume ownership. Small children will need guidance and instruction but let them take a leadership role. At the very least, they can select the plants they want to grow and the tasks they like the best. Be sure to provide plenty of praise and positive feedback as they gradually assume more responsibility over time.
2. Keep it simple. Break tasks down into individual steps that your child can understand. Encourage them to select plants that will be easy to grow. For example, most beans and peas thrive with little care. Plus, they’re nutritional powerhouses and the large seeds are easy for kids to handle.
3. Provide instant gratification. Fast results will keep kids motivated. Radishes are usually ready to pick in less than three weeks. Mix in some lettuce plants and you’ll have tender salad greens at about the same time. Here are a few other quick-growing veggies to consider.
4. Play it safe. Children are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning, so in urban areas, you may need to get your soil tested. Make it a rule that they need to ask an adult for approval before they eat any plant. Avoid dangerous chemicals and be careful with sharp tools.
4. Make it a learning experience. Use your garden to teach everything from science to poetry! You can talk about how the weather affects plant growth, and recite poems about flowers. Also show your kids how the various living creatures of the natural world – from worms, to beetles, to bees – interact to help your plants grow and produce a harvest.
6. Have fun! Encourage your kids to invite friends over to help. Unusual varieties of plants can be amusing, so shop around for fun seeds to get a crop of foot-long carrots, miniature pumpkins, or purple tomatoes.
Gardening with Tweens and Teens
1. Let older kids guide younger ones. Middle school and high school students can be great role models and instructors for small children. The interaction can be inspiring and gratifying for all involved!
2. Challenge veteran gardeners to set new goals. Horticulture will become a way of life for many kids who have the benefit of early exposure. Keep it stimulating by supporting them in developing new skills.
3. Go gently with new gardeners. If your teen is new to gardening, they may feel tentative about doing anything that would make them seem different from their peers. Give them the space to progress at their own rate, and encourage them to invite friends to enjoy meals together that include veggies they’ve grown. You never know, your teen just may make gardening “cool”!
Gardening with your kids will strengthen your relationship and may even help you cut down on grocery bills. Help your kids get an early start on appreciating nature’s bounty and draw your family closer together with timeless garden traditions and priceless family memories!