Gardening with kids is the magic of life. But like all things with young children, it’s also all about… you guessed it, patience. The key is in the process of letting them return to the garden time and time again to see the growth, the blossoms turn to fruit, and to be a part of the overall evolution. The more the garden feels like theirs, the more they’ll wander into it and allow nature to be a part of them.
Each day we have some time outside in the garden whether it be admiring fresh buds, helping lazy bumblebees find flowers, or starting new seeds. I’ve found that the best jobs for kids are ones that allow them to touch and feel – and taste! It helps kids to feel a sense of responsibility, and also instill a lifelong fondness for the natural world.
Although at times challenging, it is far more rewarding than you could imagine!
Here are my top tips for gardening with kids:
1- Give them their jobs before you get outside
Help them know what tools they get to use, and what they’re doing so as to keep the focus on the area you want to be working in. The second the babies start to wander is always when unripe strawberries get eaten and seeds get dumped out. However, the more at peace I am when those things happen, the more it always is.
2- Dirty hands, happy heart
Let them get dirty and muddy! Some kids will eat dirt, some will rub it in their hair, or dump it into their shoes – that’s OK! It’s good for their microbiome anyways.
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3- Start with observing
To help your kids transition into garden time, start them off with a little guided meditation, drawing attention to their senses. An example is to say, “Now that we’re in the garden, let’s smell a flower. What does that smell like? Let’s feel the air – what does that feel like? Let’s listen. What do you hear?” This centers them and helps give context to their experience.
4- No job is too small
Even just helping you to loosen roots from a seedling, or make a furrow with their fingers is an exciting task. Searching for caterpillars and counting ants are worthwhile too, especially if you need to be hands-on. All activities are created equal to your kids, and simply helping at all is a treat.
5- Practice lesson-teaching
My kids learned about taking turns in the garden, about ripe versus not ripe, and about “try again”. A garden is a great place to teach life lessons and to weave in some practical how-tos. Allowing your kids to be immersed in the gardening experience teaches them far more than any class ever could.
6- Let them play
Last but not least, let them play. The garden should be fun and experimental – a place to let kids be kids. Have fun and don’t worry too much about doing things “right”. Plants are more resilient than you think, much like our little ones.
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I hope you find some time to get in the garden with your little ones and start to grow not only vegetables but also a lifelong love of nature. If you’re brand new to gardening, I recommend researching your USDA hardiness zone and using that to dictate when and what to plant. Most people do a majority of their gardening March – September, so now is a great time to plan out what you want to plant and where to plant it.