There is something special about the deep connection between a child and the earth. Children of all ages seem to have a natural magnetic attraction to it. It starts with curiosity with the reaction between soil and water; which turns into the fun activity of playing in the mud! Then the awareness of all the small organisms which inhabit the ground beneath our feet sets in; which leads to fascination with worms, caterpillars, and all those other creepy crawlers! There is nothing sweeter than seeing the look of wonder and enchantment when a child begins to interact with natural elements for the first time. By growing a garden with your child you will not only enhance their creativity and open new doors to awareness and learning, but you will have a whole lot of fun!
Gardening with your children can be one the most joyful activities you can do together. Even if you do not have experience gardening—don’t worry, just dig right in! It will provide you and your little one with an opportunity for interaction, exercise, fresh air, fond memories, and will also provide you with an opportunity to teach your children about growing vegetables and the importance of good nutrition.
Here are some things to consider before you get started:
- How much space is available for your garden and what is the age of your child? Keep in mind that what seems like a small garden to you might be overwhelming for your little one.
- A small, intensive garden might be better so that you and your child do not become overwhelmed with the weeds that will grow in a larger area.
- Look for miniature plant and/or vegetable varieties that might be more accessible and understandable to smaller children.
- Soil preparation is the key to a healthy garden. It can also be a whole lot of fun for your child. Give your child a big spoon to help dig up the spot where you want to have your garden and once the soil is tilled, amend it with an organic mixture such as compost or sphagnum peat.
- If you have a very small yard, or if you live in a townhouse or apartment, consider starting a container garden with your child.
- Choose plants that appeal to sight, touch and smell. Give your child ownership of his/her garden. If you have a bigger garden, mark off a section that is just for your child.
- Look for disease-and-pest-resistant plants for your garden. Some of the common vegetables that are good choices to start with are beets, carrots, cucumbers, onions, peas, radishes, spinach and rhubarb.
- Organic is always best, especially when gardening with your children! Children love to touch, play, and put all sorts of things into their mouths. Don’t ever consider using harmful pesticides or fertilizers (such as Miracle Grow)!
- Don’t get discouraged if your garden is not everything you thought it would be! Remember it’s the process of learning that is most important, and your child will enjoy the time spent together no matter what!
Gardening will teach your child practical skills such as math, etiquette, responsibility, and patience. Math is taught when first mapping out where your garden will be, how big it should be, and measuring the distances between the seeds or seedlings you will be planting. Etiquette is learned by acknowledging the proper places to walk in the garden. Responsibility comes through taking care of your plants—remembering when and for how long to water, the importance of weeding, and proper cultivation of soil. Patience comes through understanding the right time to harvest vegetables and learning how to wait.
A garden can be your classroom and your treasure chest. Whether you choose to grow flowers, herbs, or vegetables, by gardening with your children you can turn digging in the dirt into a lifetime of love and respect for nature.
If you want to learn more about how to start a garden with your children check out this website.