Rare is the child that isn’t attracted to, and bemused by discoveries outdoors. Mesmerized by the butterfly that lights upon their hand or the hummingbird’s flight. Plucking a flower to feel its texture, to sniff and perhaps to take it apart to see how its made, to digging in the dirt to make mud pies or to discover that wiggly worm.
You can encourage the continued joy children expeience with their natural curiosity through gardening.
“Looking for a great summer time activity for children, or a wonderful way for families to bond and spend time together in meaningful and relatively inexpensive activities? …”
Now, I’m not so sure you will want to involve your child with the planning stages of your garden; especially for fairly young kids. It’s great to involve children in the family garden, but it’s also a good idea to let the child have a section of the garden that is specificaly set aside for their use.
It really won’t matter if they decide to grow vegetables or fruits with herbs or flowers. You want to foster their link with nature, not dampen it with a lot of rules.
The tools you need depend on the size and type of garden your family selects, but basic tools might include a rake, shovel, garden hoe, hand trowel, garden hose or watering cans. Many stores also carry these same tools in kid-size versions that are shorter and smaller – just right for a young child.
When you buy tools like ranks,shovels and hoes, get the best your budget will allow (you can check out an article I wrote on tools here). Before you grab that cheap plastic and tin tool for your child, think about how frustrated you become when a device you are working with breaks.
Children have a talent for being able to break about anything. By buying implements that are quality made, you not only increase that probability that they will last longer, but the child will be willing to use them for more than one season.
Remember that young children look for instant gratification, so consider including radishes which grow quicker in your vegetable garden, or select flowers that will bloom this year.
Depending upon where you live, radishes might be a good choice for the summer garden. Although I can grow radishes throughout most of the year, they taste and grow more uniformly in early spring.
Ideas for quick growing fall plants include, varieties of lettuce, spinach, onion sets, broccoli, and cabbage. Oftentimes, younger children will maintain their interest in the garden when plant sets are used rather than seed because they can already see the plant and watch it’s growth.
Should your child want to grow flowers, select fast growing and first year blooming varieties such as zinnas, marigolds and periwinkle (watch that last one as it can become quite invasive).
Don’t overlook shrubs that attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Butterfly bush, lantana and hibiscus come to mind.
When caring for the garden, young children can enjoy weeding alongside the rest of the family but may have more trouble telling the weeds from the plants so consider having them weed and area with plants that do not look similar to the plants and don’t let an accidently pulled plant stress you out.
Personally, I’d let the kid pull where they please. Heck, I’ve pulled a plant or two myself. What I would do, is wait until the weed is distinguishable from the plant. A lot of weeds will grow faster than the garden anyway.
Keep your child connected to nature and in awe a bit longer and remember that it…
… has all kinds of social, emotional, health and nutritional benefits including: spending time together; facilitating teamwork, cooperation and communication skills; increasing time spent outdoors in a natural environment; stress reduction; time spent learning together with family members, friends and/or neighbors; increased physical activity; promotion of adding more fruits and vegetables to the families diet; and experiencing accomplishments as a team. So, garden; it’s good for the whole family.