Time for some gardening! This weekend, many families will likely begin (or continue) their annual gardening expeditions; cleaning up sticks, planting seeds, and more! Rather than having your kids feel like gardening is a “chore”, here are a few tips for gardening with kids from our guest blogger Adrienne, of The Iowa Farmer’s Wife.
One of our family’s favorite parts of spring is planting our garden. Since our kids love to be outdoors and help out in the garden, we created a space just for them. Each year it changes a bit depending on what they want plant and where the decorations are placed, but it’s a spot for fine motor skills, exploring and learning to take place while enjoying the sunshine. Here are 5 tips for creating a kid-friendly garden of your own!
Step 1) Create a Space
Whether it’s a kid-friendly spot in the garden or a large tub filled with soil, create a place your child can call her own. My husband created a kid-sized spot near our garden and our daughter decorated with a garden gnome, a pinwheel and a pink flamingo. Once your child’s garden spot is ready, you can stop right there and let your child happily dig in the dirt, or you can help her plant and grow her own garden.
Step 2) Choose the Seeds
If you have your own garden, you probably have leftover seeds to share with your child. Spread out your seed packets and allow your child to choose a few options. If you need new seeds or simply want to show your child the vast array of options, take your child to a nursery or home and garden store. Choose flower seeds, vegetable seeds or a combination of both.
Talk with your child about which flowers and vegetables grow best in your area. Take the seeds home and read the planting directions listed on the back of the seed packet together. You can also begin talking about caring for the garden and what tools you might need to do so. This will all contribute to your child enjoying the gardening experience, as the seeds will become their own little “projects.”
If your kids are like mine, they love digging with their hands, but offering different types of gardening tools allows children to dig deeper and learn about what each tool does when caring for a garden. Two of our favorite tools include the Blossom Bright Shovel and the Happy Giddy Cultivator. Don’t forget a watering can!
Step 3) Plant the Seeds
Assist your child in planting the seeds in her garden by following the directions on the back of the seed packet. (Planting seeds is a great measuring and math activity!) If the seeds need to be spaced out, use a ruler or other measuring tool to determine where the next seed needs to go. As you plant, discuss the different sizes, color and shapes of the seeds.
Step 4: Caring for Garden
Once your child has planted the seeds, it’s time to take care of them! Talk with your child about what is needed for each plant to grow and determine age appropriate responsibilities. My daughter is 4 years old and picks up sticks around her garden, wheels them to the garbage (or compost pile) using her Happy Giddy Kids’ Cart, waters the plants and pulls weeds from her garden (just make sure your child isn’t pulling out the actual plant!).
Step 5: Harvesting
Perhaps the best part of gardening is what comes from that tiny little seed. Watching the tiny sprout grow into a plant still fascinates me and allows my children to experience the entire life cycle of a garden rather than just the results. If your child planted flowers, assist or show her how to clip flowers for a bouquet. If she planted vegetables, talk about ripeness and when to pick the vegetables. Discuss size, color and the shape of ripe vegetables. My daughter loves to pick peas, flowers of any type and eats tomatoes right off the vine. If you have a batch of seeds that didn’t come up, talk with your child about why that may have happened (too hot, too much water, not enough water, poor growing conditions, etc.).
Once you’ve got your harvest, let your little gardener plan a meal, snack or side dish using her home-grown produce!
Do you have a Kid-Friendly garden? Share your photos with us on Instagram, using the hashtags #TakeBackChildhood, #CountlessWaysToPlay and #MelissaAndDoug.