Sunday, August 15, 2010

Kids And Gardening

Kids And Gardening

Get your kids gardening! With imagination and dirt you can introduce children to a world of experiences in the garden. It's easy, inexpensive and educational. How can you get children interested in gardening? Let me count the ways. With a little imagination and dirt you can introduce your children to a world of experiences in the garden. Since I'm an avid gardener I wanted to share this interest with my young son. Together we created a garden full of wonderful things to taste, touch, smell, decorate - even sleep under. It's easy, inexpensive and educational (the kids don't need to know that part).

Children like a sense of ownership so give them a plot of land, let them help choose the site and let them name it. Have them outline it with stones and put in some simple paths with mulch or grass clippings. Be sure to leave a play space just for pure digging fun.

Kids are tactile creatures so in planning the garden I started with the senses:

Chocolate and pineapple mints, basil, sage, anise hyssop (smells like licorice)and lavender. Teach your child to crush the leaves with their fingers, encourage them to experiment with different scent combinations.

Big, soft lamb’s ears, fluffy spider flowers, smooth, cool pumpkins and prickly globe thistle provide a variety of tactile sensations. Let your child know that in their garden touching is ok.

Children will love munching their way through their garden. Cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas, radishes and baby carrots can be enjoyed fresh from the dirt. (Be sure to NEVER use pesticides on your child’s garden.) You might discover that you can get your child to try something they have never eaten before – zucchini maybe – simply because they grew it.

Birdhouse gourds can be turned into rattles or drums. Seeds can be used to create a rainstick.

Let your child try to find the faces on the pansy and work the jaws of the snapdragon. Have them open the purple pod of a pole bean and discover the green bean inside. Plant a rainbow garden using yellow marigolds, white zinnias, red salvia, blue pansies and purple petunias.

I made sure to create a secret place in the garden where my son could rest in some shade and maybe read. You can do this by creating a cave out of chicken wire and some small poles and then growing morning glories and sweet potato vine or sweet peas onto it. You can also grow mammoth sunflowers on a small, square plot and weave the tops together into a teepee.

There should also be space for birds. Birdbaths, feeders and a birdhouse can attract finches and blue jays into your yard.

Have your children decorate the garden. They can make plant markers using smooth stones that can be written on with indelible markers. They could draw big versions of what they planted on poster board and it can be laminated and hung in the garden. Every garden needs a scarecrow! Let them choose from clothing they have outgrown to create a guardian for the garden.

Some final tips
  • Buy good quality seed to ensure good plant production.
  • Kids like instant gratification. You may not like radishes but they grow fast!
  • Buy an instant camera and let your child keep a scrapbook of his garden.
  • Use themes in your garden plan – plant a pizza garden, Peter Rabbit’s garden or a maze garden.
  • Invest in some child sized tools.

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