Children are natural gardeners. Kids are curious, they learn best by doing and love to play in the dirt. They will not only learn new skills while making sure that the plants get enough fertilizer, water and sun but they will develop a sense of mindfulness. Concepts learned while gardening, like composting food scraps for fertilizer or using gathered rainwater, can show kids a deep respect and responsibility for taking care of our planet.
And in the age of electronics, kids need meaningful family connections. Planning a garden, planting the seeds and watching them grow give kids a sense of purpose and responsibility while teaching team building and promoting communication skills. Furthermore, a number of studies show that when children have contact with soil during activities like digging and planting, they have improved moods, better learning experiences and decreased anxiety. Most important, the self-esteem and excitement a child feels from eating a vegetable or gifting a flower that he grew himself is priceless.
“Why try to explain miracles to your kids when you can just have them plant a garden.” - Rbert Brault
Set your kids up for success with these gardening tips!
Give them serious tools. Do not give your kids cheap plastic child's gardening tools. These are worse than having no tools at all because they will break and create frustration. Find good work gloves that fit a small hand. With some garden tools, like a hoe or spade, you can easily saw the handle shorter. Consider even letting them use your tools to show the importance of the work they're doing.
Start from seeds. While it's a convenient shortcut with starter kits, children will learn best by seeing the growing process from beginning, the seed. The care given to sprouting seeds and nurturing the young seedling are a valuable part of the gardening experience.
Cheat a little. Depending on the age of the child, you may need to help out a little 'behind the scene'. Not every garden task is pleasant or fun, and the child may not be ready at all times for all the necessary tasks. You may need to go out in the evening to pick a few slugs off the lettuce, or be the one to run out and move the sprinkler.
Show off their work. Give a 'garden tours' to visitors. Take photos of their progress and send it to their grandparents. The attention you give to their work is a big motivator for them to stay involved with the entire growing process.
What To Plant in a Kid's Garden
Here are 5 crops perfect for a child’s garden--- relatively easy to grow, have short growing seasons and are fun to harvest.
Growing season is 50-75 days. Plant in full sun and use seedlings rather than planting from seed. Put in a 2' stake alongside each seedling; they need to be tied loosely to stakes as they get taller. Add lots of compost. Water at ground level, trying to keep leaves dry. Can also be grown in containers.
The seeds will germinate in 7-10 days; growing season is 40-50 days. A quick and reliable crop to give the child fast results, and also a good way to interest kids in salads. Lettuce likes part shade; keep soil moist especially during the first two weeks. You can grow 'head' (space 8" apart) or 'leaf' (space 4" apart) varieties; the leaf varieties will mature sooner, about 30-35 days.
Known as a 'never-fail' crop. You can plant red or white varieties but red will mature faster. Cut seed potatoes into chunks with at least 2 'eyes' per. Plant in furrows, about 12-15" apart, with eyes pointing upward. Mound soil up around plant as it grows; harvest when plant collapses.
A quick-growing crop, and fun for kids to eat right off the vine. They take about 10 days to germinate and mature in about 60 days. Peas prefer cool, shady locations. They should be planted about 1" apart at most. Snow peas are popular because the pod is edible.
A must for a child's garden. They will sprout in 1 week, become a small seedling in 2 weeks, and should be 2' tall in a month. In about 8 weeks, they will begin revealing hundreds of seed kernels. They will dry naturally in the late summer sun; the seeds, rich in protein and iron, can be roasted for snacks that kids can enjoy.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: MANDY CARTER
Mandy manages the South Florida and SWFL Communities of Housewives In the City. She is mother of two who loves to travel, shop and try new cocktails. In addition to planning events and blogging for Housewives In The City, she is a published writer, working model, freelance marketer and family travel blogger at Acupful.com.