Gardening without Grumbling: Tips for a Kid-Friendly Garden
Soon enough, teachers, students, and parents alike will be playing air guitar and singing “School’s out for summer.” These short months can deepen your relationship with your children, provide countless learning experiences, and help you create lasting memories. One way to make that happen—not to mention occupy some of that unstructured leisure time—is to start a family garden. Sound like a daunting task? These tips will point you in the right direction and help ensure that both you and your kids enjoy every minute of garden time.
Having a successful garden requires a lot of work and involving your children in the process will require even more. However, there are plenty of reasons that gardening is good for kids—and for you too. Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, explains how too many children experience nature-deficit disorder, causing “diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses, a rising rate of myopia, child and adult obesity, Vitamin D deficiency, and other maladies.”
Simply by spending time in nature, you’re investing in the health and well-being of your children. It will require time and effort to keep your little ones involved, so make sure you’re well-motivated before getting your hands dirty. After all, we all know that when Mom sets her mind to something, the rest of the family tends to fall in line. Knowing the proven benefits of gardening can give you an additional push to get you started.
Pick Your Plants
You’ll want to carefully select sturdy, bug-resistant plants, because (spoiler alert) gardens are less exciting when they’re dead. If possible, try kid-friendly plants that have a short harvest time so your children can see the results of their work.
Planting starts will be easier than growing from seed, so if you have younger children, it may be better to take a family shopping trip to a local greenhouse. If you have older kids, though, you can teach them where the magic of growth really begins by planting a few varieties from seed.
Children are naturally creative, and they may have ideas of their own about what they want to plant. Let them take the lead on selecting flowers, vegetables, and herbs that appeal to them.
Make the Work Manageable
Little kids tend to have little attention spans, so give them quick and easy tasks that will get them involved in manageable ways. Smaller children might pick up rocks or sticks, free your garden of pests by hunting snails or slugs, dig holes and play with dirt, help to water the plants, and more. Older children might be assigned their own part of the garden, giving them an independent gardening experience with a small plot of their own. Tasks will be more kid-friendly with kid-sized tools, so consider investing in small trowels and gloves.
You can also make garden time easier by doing some of the work indoors. Online resources like The Great Plant Escape engage kids in fun learning games that teach them the basics of plant life and gardening. You can also involve your little ones in simple garden care activities like composting, using your fruit and veggie scraps to feed your growing plants.
Share the Love
Though you can’t control how much fruit you harvest or how well your flowers bloom, your kids will reap even more benefits from your positive feedback. Validate their efforts and congratulate them on working hard. Let your children show the garden to their friends, and show it to yours too! Grandma and Grandpa might love to receive pictures of their favorite little people and their little plants, and your kids will love the positive attention they receive as a result of their efforts.
You can also reach out to share your home-grown goodness with those around you. Let your child give a bouquet of your flowers to a sick relative, or deliver some fruit or vegetables to a neighbor. Help your little ones wash and prepare your homegrown crops for a family meal, and they’ll love the taste of your joint gardening success.
Gardening takes some work, but with a little effort, you can get your kids outside to soak up some warm summer weather, learn the value of hard work, and reap some tasty benefits. Now is the perfect time to plant, so use these tips to start today!