Gardening with Kids
Gardening with your kids can be a great family pastime. Gardening teaches children about responsibility and caring for another life and is also a great opportunity to introduce other related topics like nutrition.
Start slowly when introducing your kids to gardening. For younger children, create fun, non-living gardening projects to get them interested before starting them with fragile plants. A tissue paper flower garden, Flower Pot Wind Chime, or a hand-made garden stepping stone are great starter projects for kids.
Let your kids choose what to plant, but make sure it is a hardy variety. There is nothing as disappointing as watching your plants die off despite your efforts, and this can be enough to turn a child off of gardening.
Demonstrate the proper methods to plant a seed in a container and supervise as the children plant their own seeds. Place the containers somewhere they will be seen every day, such as the kitchen table or where the kids sit down to do their homework. Create a schedule to help them remember when to water. After that, you can sit back and watch your child's fascination with gardening grow.
Growing a garden
Once your children have successfully grown a potted plant, give them a larger pot or a small area of the yard to start their very own garden. Celebrate their container growing success and prepare them for the more difficult outdoor growing by buying them their own kid-sized garden tools (265-5770, 5783, 5796, 5806). Start with a small garden the first year. You can always increase the size of the garden next year, but planting an overly large garden will exhaust a new gardener and take the joy out of the experience.
Now is the time to teach your kids about planting zones, watering, and sun needs as they select their garden plants. They can also learn the differences between annuals, biennials and perennials and decide what type of plants they want to grow. Annuals are the best bet since young gardeners generally won't want to wait until next year to see the results of their work and might want to choose different plants in following years.
Choosing hardy, beautiful flowers or vegetables will help inspire kids to keep up their new gardening hobby. For flowers, try cosmos, marigolds, or even sunflowers. For vegetables, plant what you know your kids will eat, such as corn or beans, or let them grow their own pumpkins for Halloween. Strawberries make a great fruit choice as they are easy to grow and many kids love their flavor. You can even suggest planting your child's area of the garden with a theme, such as "pizza plants" with all the herbs and vegetables for a great pizza, or even "spiky gardens" with only spiky plants. Remember to let your child's imagination roam. While the end result might not be the neatest or most conventionally beautiful garden, your kids will love it.
To give additional motivation to younger gardeners, offer to allow them to create a flower stand where they can sell the results of their hard work for cash. Or, let them sell vegetables to friends and neighbors. This can also provide a lesson in economics: if they put some of the money they earn toward next year's garden, they will be able to produce more flowers next year and earn more money.
For older children, have them keep track of the edible plants that are taken from the garden. Then take a trip to the grocery store and have your child find prices for all the items he or she grew. Have your child calculate the total amount of money that would have been spent purchasing the items that grew in the garden. You can then put that savings toward a family outing or a pizza party.
Gardening is an excellent way to bring the whole family together. By giving your kids responsibility and a bit of earth to call their own, you give them self-worth and help them to see the hard work that goes into keeping the whole property beautiful.