“5 Steps to Gardening with Your Child”
by Stephanie Harrington
Gardening is a great way to connect with your child. It can provide great quality time to spend together. Whether you plan to have a large or small garden, you’ll have hours of fun in it together.
The Unspoken Garden Invitation…
I love gardening. It’s not something all children will necessarily come to naturally, but most of the time all that is needed is an invitation. It doesn’t even need to be spoken. Children watch what you do. So if you want to get your child gardening, just start doing it. It’s almost a sure thing they will want to join in.
Resist the urge to …
care more about how your garden looks than the experience it can offer your child. Of course we want a nice looking garden, but the perfection mode can cancel out any hopes of making this a forum for you to connect with your child. Instead, think of it as a process to enjoy. The garden is sure to grow and develop over time.
5 Steps to Gardening with Your Child
Connect with your child in the garden and create a hands on learning opportunity for them while together you:
Feed. Water. Weed.
Let your child help you in discovering how and what to plant in your garden. Teach them about what plants need to live and that certain plants like certain things. For example, does a particular plant like full shade or full sun? You can ensure success by offering the plants to choose from that are right for your region and location. Know which plants will thrive in your garden and then let your child choose the plants they like from a selection you offer.
This is when most of the work occurs in the garden. Soil preparation is of the utmost importance. It’s also the time when most kids can cut loose digging and getting a little dirty. Most children love to dig in the dirt so this should be pretty easy to get help with. I know none of us need more laundry to do, but try to let your child explore a little.
Start in a small area or raised bed turning over the soil, adding the right nutrients and go from there. Don’t make it overwhelming, keep it fun for you and them. Finding worms and other critters is another part of gardening that most children will think is fun. But if your child is a bit squeamish about creepy crawlers then you can make it fun by adding a quick game of good bug bad bug. While being the one to handle them you can teach your child which ones are good or bad for the garden and why.
This is the most difficult part to do with kids usually because they tend not to dig deep enough. While planting seeds kids can also be a bit haphazard. Depending on your child’s age and coordination development, they can have difficulty supporting the plant while placing them into the ground or difficulty grasping small seeds and controlling where they go. Be patient here, let your child try their best and if you have to you can always go back and replant something better. The learning experience is worth loosing one or two plants in the process and in the end your child will learn a new skill.
Starting a few seeds inside is also a fun and an excellent learning experience. Using large seeds like beans or tomatoes offer easy viewing of germination and root systems. I have found, however, that sowing seeds right into the ground is much more successful overall. Just be sure not to over plant because thinning seedlings isn’t very fun even though it is necessary for spacing later.
Feed. Water. Weed.
This is easy with kids. They love this part. They love seeing how their hard work pays off and that they did it all by themselves. Kids are great at watering and they enjoy doing it so let them go for it and give them this duty. Be sure they are faithful about watering and later help them be faithful about weeding. Teach your children what is to be pulled and what isn’t.
You can add the nutrients and food that your plants need as you go or between harvest and replanting because some things will grow faster than others. Taking care of plants is a great way to foster responsibility. Your child’s plants will depend on them which makes it a great learning experience for kids.
This is by far the funnest part of gardening. Kids love to eat and harvest things out of the garden. You can bet your picky eater will be happy to eat vegetables straight from the garden. Why is this? It’s just natural.
Unfortunately, growing our own food has been factored out of the equation for most of us. I do appreciate being able to go to the grocery store or co-op to get all my food, and many other things, in one convenient place. Who doesn’t? But since I have been a gardener, I been able to feel what’s it’s like to grow some of my own food. It’s healthy, rewarding and economical. The food even tastes better. And that’s a wonderful thing to share with our children as well.
What other outdoor activities do you have planned this summer with your child?
Stephanie has been a military spouse for 18 years and is a homeschool mom of 12+ years. She is mom to three creative kids from college grad down to fifth grade. She and her husband of 22 years serve and live wherever the US Army sends them. She shares her homeschool and life experiences on her blogHarrington Harmonies. When she isn’t teaching, writing or moving she enjoys sightseeing, gardening, and cooking. You can follow her via Google+,Twitter,Pinterest, andFacebook