Gardening with Kids

Every parent knows that cooped-up feeling you can get by the end of the winter.  We have spent weeks keeping our kids entertained with indoor activities until now...  Spring is finally here!  It’s time to go out and let your little ones get back in touch with nature.  What better way to do that than to plant a garden?  Some parents might worry that they don’t have a “green thumb” and some might be reluctant to take on the responsibility of a garden, but here are some things to consider:

Gardens don’t need to be large.  You can start with a small plot and just a few plants.  Remember, what seems small to you might seem a lot bigger to a child!
If you don’t have a yard or don’t want to dig up a part of your lawn, consider containers.  Collect a few large pots and put them in a sunny spot.  Although you have to be sure to water them regularly, they get fewer weeds, stay contained, look beautiful and can be moved if desired.
Planting a garden will allow your kids to get fresh air and exercise and can beautify your property.  It’s also a great way to spend quality time with your child while encouraging environmental awareness and scientific learning.  In addition, if you grow fruits and vegetables, you’re providing healthy food for your family.  Picky eaters might even be willing to taste some of those dreaded veggies if they’ve grown them themselves!

Once you have decided to plant your garden, don’t forget to keep your child involved in the process.  Pick a sunny spot and head to the garden center to choose flowers, fruit and vegetable plants, or some of each.  Some easy-to-grow options include:
Green beans

If you start early in the spring, you can grow plants from seeds.  This option is nice because it’s less expensive and allows your child to witness and be a part of the entire growing process.  But if you start later, or want to keep it simpler, you can buy the young plants at your garden center.  Once the plants are in the ground, give your child the responsibility of caring for them – weeding and watering regularly.  Your child will have a sense of pride and accomplishment as they watch their plants grow!

You can also incorporate some crafting into the process.  Have your kids paint the names of the plants on rocks or large popsicle sticks to use as plant markers.  Or, have them decorate pots for container gardens.  Encourage them to draw or paint pictures of their plants.  If your child is old enough to use a camera, you could have them take photos of their garden as it grows and make the photos into a calendar or book.

Most importantly, have fun!  And don’t forget to stop into your library to get a book to help you along the way.  Here are a few great choices to get you started:

A Backyard Vegetable Garden for Kids by Amie Jane Leavitt
A great introduction to vegetable gardening for kids including suggested plants to grow, preparing a plot, sowing seeds, and harvesting.

A Kid’s Guide to Container Gardening by Stephanie Bearce
Includes lots of basic information for kids on planting using pots and other containers.  Learn what tools and supplies you’ll need, how to choose your plants and how to keep them growing.

Secrets of the Garden: Food Chains and the Food Web in our Backyard by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld
Depicts a family of four who make their garden their summer home as they prepare the soil, plant seeds, water the garden, and watch for a harvest of vegetables.

Grow it, Cook it by Deborah Lock
Showing how to grow plants and then how to use them in delicious kid-appealing recipes, "Grow It, Cook It" is more than a cookbook--it offers a fresh approach to healthy eating by getting children involved in food right from the start!

It’s our Garden: From Seeds to Harvest in a School Garden by George Ancona
This is the story of a school garden in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  Learn how students, teachers and community members design a garden, then tend and harvest it.

- Christine C.


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