You can teach children about gardening all day long, but the best way for kids to learn the importance and fun of gardening is to let them get their hands dirty. Teaching them about taking care of our planet is an invaluable lesson that will stick with them for their entire lives. If we take care of our planet, it will take care of us.
What are the best plants for kids to grow? What lessons will my child learn from working in the garden? How can we make gardening seem like a game instead of a chore? These are all great questions that we are going to answer for you!
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An important tip to keep in mind when gardening with your children is to allow your kids to be messy and to make mistakes. Their garden may not be as pristine as yours, but remember that they are just learning.
It helps if you have a separate area that your kids can claim as their own garden. This gives your kids a sense of importance and ownership, and then, your garden can still be exactly the way that you want it. Gaining experience in the garden is all about learning from your mistakes. You’ve made your gardening mistakes, and now it’s time for your kids to make theirs.
What do plants need to grow? Plants need sunlight, water, appropriate drainage, good soil packed with nutrients, and strong, healthy roots. What roles do each of these necessities play? Show them how you provide what the plants need to thrive. Let them watch how you water a plant and how you apply compost or fertilizer, then let them practice on the next one. Explain the “why” as you’re teaching the “how.” Depending on how old your child is, this is a great opportunity for a little lesson about photosynthesis and soil science.
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Are you trying to decide what to plant next in your garden? Let your kid be a part of this process! By getting your child involved at the very inception of the garden, they will feel emotionally invested in the plants that you choose together.
If you are planting from seed, this is a great time to show your kids how much life can come from one tiny seed. You can even make it a competition: First seedling to make it to 3 inches tall wins! If you’re going to buy plants from your local nursery, take your child with you!
Choosing plants should be a sensory experience, how does it look, how does it feel, how does it smell, if it’s edible — how does it taste? Let them pick out their favorite flower, veggie, or herbs. Help them pick out the fascinating plants — carnivorous plants, edible flowers, plants that can dye fabrics. Amaze them with the incredible world of plants!
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Is your child expressing an interest in the kitchen? Plant a chef’s garden, filled with herbs and veggies! Does your kid love any and all animals? Make an animal themed garden! If your kid can read, head to your local nursery and tell your child to pick out plants with animal names! Does your kid love pizza? Plant a pizza garden, complete with basil, oregano, and tomatoes! Does your kid love butterflies? Plant a pollinator garden and teach the importance of our hardworking pollinators!
Container gardens don’t have to be boring — let your kid add his or her own unique style by choosing the containers on their own! Some great ideas are some old rain boots, an old soccer ball — cut in half, toy dinosaurs or animals that are hollow and can hold soil, a gum ball machine, a sandbox, etc. Make the garden fun by incorporating their toys!
Have your kids go on an adjective hunt — Give them an adjective, and they have to find a plant in the garden or local nursery that matches that description. For example, if they receive the adjective “soft,” they might find Lamb’s-ear or Sage.
If it’s summer time, what better way to give your plants some extra water than by playing water games in the garden? Grab some water guns, water balloons, a hose, or a sprinkler, and let the fun begin!
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Ultimately, the goal of getting kids involved in the garden is to have fun! So get your hands dirty, revel in the time spent together, share the garden successes, learn from the garden failures, and always anticipate your next gardening adventure!