Gardens aren’t the only things that grow — ‘tis the season to get the kids outside and learning about the green world about them. What better way than to get a little dirty together in the garden? Here are ways to make a kid-friendly green world that they’ll want to participate in creating and maintaining.
Whether you’re looking to introduce the art of gardening to your toddler or to your tween, it’s all about early involvement in the process. Get them excited right at the start.
- Create a theme garden. Talk to your kids about what they might like to build: a secret garden where they have their own special seat or bird bath? A pizza garden where you grow fresh ingredients? A wacky veggie plot? An Alice in Wonderland garden with flowers both huge and small? Get creative!
- Plan the space. There are practicalities that come into play once you’ve found an idea or two that you’re inspired by. Talk about the size you’re working with, the amount of sun available in the patch and the soil drainage. These are great opportunities to introduce the science of botany to your kids. Do some muddy soil drainage tests by soaking the ground together. Also, measure the amount of sun and the time of day it’s most prevalent. Then, start plotting your space.
Selecting Your Garden Items
Now comes the fun part—you’ve got your plans and it’s time to pick the crucial ingredients for your garden. Keep these factors in mind.
- Make a kid-friendly plant list. While there are a multitude of colourful, beautiful flowers, there are also a lot of unassumingly dangerous ones. It’s important to pick ones that are safe for your kids’ age ranges. Same thing goes with veggies — you may want to grow broccoli, but it might not be the most inspiring choice for your kids.
- Consider sun versus shade. Make sure you choose your flowers or veggies to match your garden’s exposure so your kids won’t be disappointed with the options you do decide upon. If you have too much shade outside, consider a window box garden instead.
- Flower options to consider: Sunflowers, chrysanthemums, petunias, hollyhocks, snapdragons, spiderwort, marigolds, zinnias, begonias, impatiens and geraniums.
- Veggie options to consider: Scarlet runner beans, pumpkins or gourds, cucumber, strawberries, blueberries, fresh herbs, tomatoes, walking stick kale, Thumbelina carrots, zucchini, and sweet peas.
- Buy the flowers and veggies together. Take your kids with you to the store when you’re picking out the plants you’ve decided upon. It’ll make the situation more real than simply bringing them home yourself and will add more incentive to get them planting with you.
Keeping Them Interested
So you’ve got your garden all ready to go, how do you keep your kids involved in the growing process? Try these ideas.
- Assign age-appropriate tasks. Little ones love getting dirty, and sometimes simply digging a hole and making muddy water can be fun. Or have worm or bug hunts whenever you’re out tending the plants. Past age four or five, you can get them even more involved in the actual planting. You can also use the growing herbs and veggies to get them cooking in the kitchen. Take photos of the plants at various stages, or turn it into a fun school project.
- Give them their own tools. If they have colourful tools appropriate to their own size, there’s more incentive to help out with the chores.
- Let them make mistakes. The garden should be something fun for you to enjoy together as well as a thing of beauty. If there’s pressure for perfection then the kids are likely to give up on it.
The more ownership they can have on the garden, the more likely they are to partake in nurturing it, learn from the experience and grow up with green thumbs.