Don’t rush the Process
By which I mean, don’t start whatever project you’re doing with a child when you have a limited span of time to work with. It is definitely going to take longer than if you just did it on your own. But let’s be honest, it was probably going to take longer by yourself than you thought anyway. As my Father always says “there is no need to panic, there’s lots of daylight left”. And with those long summer evenings you can always find yourself at least one to get the kids out & growing.
Make it Weird
Kids love weird stuff. So consider getting their help growing common things that come in uncommon varieties. My kids love sunflowers, so while anything but the dwarf kind pretty much outgrows them all, take it to the next level & grow a few Mammoth varieties & even you will be in awe of their size. Another simple one you can snack on is purple peppers or rainbow varieties of cherry tomatoes or carrots. They’re Pretty & delicious!
Begin at the Beginning
While I do know a few kids who don’t like getting their hands dirty, most of them do like playing in the dirt. Chances are if youre reading this, you probably start some seeds of your own or maybe do up a few planters. So let the kids take over the job of filling your containers or seed starting trays. Even if that’s the only part they take in the process, when things start growing, they’ll be sure to be full of pride telling people that they grew it, & there’s no harm in letting that story run. This particular job is a favorite for our 4 year old, he likes to pretend he’s a tractor loading them while he does it too.
Water that Enthusiasm
While watering always seems like a chore to me, for the kids it’s a fun game. Let them have a spray bottle to tend to those little seedlings or simply get them a little kid sized watering can to help out in the garden beds. They’ll love running back & forth to the hose or submerging it in a big bucket to fill it up – way more than any adult I’ve ever known will. And the job has to be done, so you might as well have their company!
Eat the Flowers
This one comes with a strong disclaimer that you need to impart to your children – “Lots of flowers are poisonous & never eat one till you ask”. That being said, there are plenty of edible flowers too, like basil flowers, viola’s & nasturtiums to name a few. Planting edible flowers in a designated space adjacent to a kids play zone is a great way to encourage them & the pollinators into your garden. I put a sand box next to one of our gardens years ago so they could play nearby while I tended the garden, which has proven itself to be fun for them & useful for me. And hey, even if they don’t end up liking the taste, you still get flowers & they’re sure to like watching the butterflies & bee’s enjoy them.
Space to Grow
If you happen to have a space or planter that you want to plant but aren’t particularly picky about what goes where, let the kids have at it! Around that sandox I mentioned, I usually let the kids have some plants to put in wherever & however they like. I tell them that it is their part of the garden & they need to help take care of it. With giving them that autonomy over it they find a lot of joy & also a sense of responsibility & ownership. Aside from the sugar snap peas, no part of the garden gets more of their attention after that! They are always going back to it to see if any new flowers bloomed or what bugs are hanging out there. It’s super cute to watch & they get really excited telling stories about how things are growing there.
Getting the kids out to pick some flowers to cut or sending them off to get a few tomatoes is a super simple & fun way to inspire them to enjoy & learn more about gardening. You may end up with a few green tomatoes in the basket & the occasional stem too short for your bouquet but that’s a pretty small price to pay. Also, when it comes the end of season & you have plants that need to be cut back or dug up & ripped out get them in on the action! A little shovel can go a long way to fostering that green thumb.
The health benefits & learning opportunities of being outdoors is well documented. The fun level for you & the wee folk in your life, well the sky is the limit on that one! Hope these tips help inspire you & your little people to spend some time gardening together this season!