I would like to welcome Alea from Premeditated Leftovers to Spoon Fed Baby! She is going to be talking today about gardening with children. Something that I can’t wait to be able to do with my little guy!
Gardening with Children
Young children can and do enjoy gardening. They love playing in the dirt and imitating their parents, so gardening comes quite naturally to them. Unfortunately, many children are shooed out of the garden until parents consider them old enough to be helpful (i.e. weed) and the opportunity to instill a love for gardening is missed because nobody develops a love for gardening through weeding.
Involving Children in the Garden
Whether you are growing flowers or a vegetable garden there are ways that you can involve even young children in the garden. Teaching them how to do a task takes time, but like household tasks it is worth taking the time to do it while they are still enthusiastic about it.
I enjoy the opportunity to pass on my favorite hobby and provide my children with a useful skill. While we work in the yard, I teach my children the names of the plants, the parts of the plants, talk about what parts are edible and how I will prepare them.
I also involve my children in the garden at a young age because it keeps them close by and reduces the amount of trouble they get in while I am busy.
Gardening Tasks that Young Children Can Do:
-Water the plants. Place a spray nozzle at the end of the hose so that plants do not get blasted or fill a watering can.
-Plant the seeds. This is easier with large seeds like sunflower seeds and squash seeds.
-Pick fruit and vegetables. Teach them the characteristics of ripe produce.
-Throw clippings in the compost pile.
-Rinse vegetables and fruits.
-Pull off dead flower blooms.
-Help dig holes.
-Help rake and pick up leaves.
Give Children Good Gardening Tools
You want to give children sturdy tools to use in the garden. It is better to give them one of your trowels than to give them a cheap, plastic beach toy. Ineffective plastic shovels will frustrate children, especially when they break. I invested in a set of hand tools and a kid’s shovel, hoe, and rake for my son. He was given a wheelbarrow for his third birthday. At first he mostly used them to imitate us, but it didn’t take long before he was actually helping out.
Keeping Children Safe in the Backyard and Garden
-Be aware that even some edible plants can have parts that are poisonous, like asparagus seeds.
-Make sure children know to ask you before eating anything from the garden.
-Keep shears and sharp tools out of reach.
-Keep all pesticides, fertilizers, and other chemicals out of reach.
-Make sure that children are protected from the sun.
-If they are using a spade, make sure they are wearing sturdy shoes.
-Gloves, a hat, and sunglasses provide additional protection.
Give Simple but Clear Instructions for Garden Rules and Tasks
When my daughter was 5, I gave her sweet pea seeds to plant and showed her how deep to plant the seeds. When she asked where she should plant the seeds I told her she could plant them anywhere she wanted. I meant in any flower bed, but she took me at my word and planted them everywhere! We had sweet peas in the lawn, under the avocado tree, and in the vegetable garden. I gave her simple directions, but I wasn’t very clear.
I have learned the hard way to give clear directions. Instead of telling a child that they can pick the tomatoes, it is better to say “You can pick the bright red tomatoes”. If you don’t, you may end up searching for a recipe for Fried Green Tomatoes.
A positive statement is better than a negative one, since kids tend not to hear the “don’ts” at the beginning of sentences. My youngest son loves picking my flowers. He can easily pick 50 blossoms in a day. Instead of telling him that he can’t pick my flowers, I remind him, he can only pick the orange flowers in his flower garden. We have to revisit this rule each spring.
Planting Flowers Children Can Enjoy
Allowing a child to pick out their own flowers for a small garden plot is a great way to teach them the names of flowers. If you can, set aside a small place for your child to garden. Three feet by three feet is a nice size to start with.
The first thing I consider when planting flowers with children is safety. I try to grow as many edible flowers as possible, not that I want my children to eat the flowers, but they won’t be poisoned if they do.
Fast growing plants like nasturtiums, petunias, snap dragons, and marigolds yield quick results. They also produce lots of flowers and children enjoy picking flowers.
Children like tall flowers like sun flowers and hollyhocks. You can roast the sunflower seeds and it is fun to teach your children How to Make Hollyhock Dolls. It takes 2 years to get flowers if you grow hollyhocks from seeds. However, you can grow hollyhocks from crowns and enjoy lots of flowers the first year.
Easy Vegetables for Children to Grow
It is also fun to grow large produce like pumpkins and watermelons. I recommend Sugar Baby Watermelons and Small Sugar Pumpkins; both plants are smaller, sweeter varieties and grow faster than larger varieties.
My kids also enjoy growing unusual colored vegetables like white carrots, yellow tomatoes, blue potatoes, and purple peppers.
I create a grid and allow my children to draw a diagram (non-writers can draw a picture) of where they want to plant their vegetable seeds in their garden. This is a great time to talk to them about how big a plant will get and how much space is needed for each plant.
Whether you are helping your child create their own vegetable or flower garden or they are helping out in your gardens, remember to be patient and flexible. Happy accidents, like sweet peas in the lawn, will happen. The most important part of gardening with children is to make it an enjoyable experience so they will want to continue.
Do you garden with your children?
Alea Milham shares her tips for saving money and time while reducing waste in her home at Premeditated Leftovers. Her favorite hobby, gardening, is a frugal source of organic produce for her recipes. She believes it is possible to live fully and eat well while spending less. Alea can be found on Pinterest and Facebook.
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