Over the last couple of months, we’ve all been looking for ways to keep our families entertained. Now that warmer weather is here to stay, gardening offers the perfect opportunity to not only entertain, but get outside and do something productive…and, if you thought fingerpainting with your kids was messy, wait till you get them in the garden! At the end of the day, there will be more dirt on their faces than in the flower boxes. But underneath that dirt, will be a huge smile. Gardening with your kids is a wonderful way to blend the benefits of nature with a learning experience. Outdoor activities and healthy habits keep kids physically and mentally in tune with everyday life.
Gardening teaches children about responsibility, nutrition, and healthy eating. They’ll learn about soil, bugs, and the role of earthworms. The best lesson? Patience. The fruits of their labor don’t appear overnight. The first step for a family garden is to plan out the project together.
Gardening Locations and Creations
Let your kids choose the spot for their garden, but be sure it’s in direct sunlight. Teach them the basics of low-maintenance landscaping, including choosing an area with proper drainage and good soil. Make sure it’s not underneath spreading tree canopies. Gardens need at least six hours of sunlight per day.
If digging directly into the dirt isn’t an option, you can be eco-friendly with recycled furniture drawers or plastic litter boxes. Just about anything in the house will work as a container as long as it has a place to drain excess water. For young children, a 3 x 3-foot garden patch is a good place to start. Give each child his or her own garden space and provide seeds, pre-potted plants, and a few lightweight tools. Then…start digging!
Soil pH is a big factor for determining what will grow in your garden, and you’ll want to test it before encouraging the children to plant. Most of the easy-to-grow vegetables and fruits, including green beans, tomatoes, and green peppers, grow best in a near-neutral pH balance of about 6.0 to 6.8. Dig into the dirt about 6 to 10 inches. You can find kid-sized gardening tools like rakes, hoes, spades, and cultivators at your favorite hardware store.
What to Grow
Plant some tomatoes, peppers, beans, onions, carrots, and whatever else you prefer. Choose a few colorful flowers, too. Children like plants with strong aromas that will grow quickly. They also prefer the veggies they recognize from your grocery store shopping trips. Larger seeds, such as pumpkin, pea, sunflower, and squash, are easier for small hands to hold. Cherry tomatoes, radishes, and lettuce are fast growers. Pumpkins will make them think of Halloween. Another perk of having them grow their own food? Even the pickiest eaters will be willing to try vegetables they grew themselves.
Gardening Projects for All Ages
Creativity starts in the garden. Plant a rainbow of fruit and vegetables with reds, yellows, greens, purples, browns, and whites. Theme gardens are fun, too. Children can grow their own pizza herbs, peppers, tomatoes, garlic, mushrooms, and onions. Fairy gardens are enchanting. Gather up stones, twigs, moss, petals, and pine cones to surround the dirt plot or container. Bug hotels are made from all kinds of materials — wooden pallets, bricks, ceramic planters, and the like. Add some turf, sticks, stones, and pinecones to attract little critters into their very own Holiday Inn.
Get scientific! Weather-based projects such as water cycling, cloud forming, and a tornado in a jar are fun ways to connect with planet Earth. Get down and dirty with mud pies, pollinator gardens, soil art, seed-retrieval and saving, and other artistic activities designed to enhance your child’s green thumb.
The benefits of sunshine and gardening include better moods, stress release, and becoming more focused. Hands-on gardening teaches children about where food comes from, healthy environments, and resource sustainability. Eating their homework is also a lot of fun.