Can you imagine how proud your daughter would be to serve (and eat) her own peas? And your son would love to brag about eating his own carrots. Even with flowers, seeing something grow out of the ground that YOU planted is really an amazing feeling. Gardening with kids is also a fun thing you can do to keep your children busy while you do your outdoor chores such as mowing the lawn or tending to your own plants. Or just laying around in a lounge chair while your little ones dig in the dirt. Actually, they can even do your chores for you. They love to pull the weeds out of your garden, but make sure you explain which are the weeds and which are the plants.
How Can Gardening Help My Kids Learn?
There are several ways gardening can help teach your children. For example, they are learning fine motor skills and hand to eye coordination by digging holes, planting the seeds or seedlings, weeding, and watering. If you have more than one child, they also learn how to get along with each other and work together. Gardening also gives them higher self-esteem knowing they are doing something so “grown up” and producing food or pretty flowers.
Let Them Grow Their Own Garden
Give your child their own garden. If you have more than one child, make sure they each get their own. Separate the gardens with homemade “fences” made from popsicle sticks or anything else you think might work. Let them come up with their own ideas. Maybe they can separate their garden with borders made from Legos or something. Let them choose what plants they want to grow, where they want to plant them in their garden, and how they will mark each plant. Of course, they will need your guidance, but depending on their ages, let them do as much as they can on their own. If you do it all for them, they will not feel like it is their garden.
Make a Calendar
Have your child make a calendar to know exactly what day they planted their plants, when they should water, weed, and feed them, and when they should start seeing their plants bloom. If you start with seedlings, help them figure out what days they can expect to see some vegetables or flowers on their plants. Remind them to look at their calendar every day and encourage them to go outside and check on their garden daily as well.
Science and Math Skills
Learning is fun when you are digging in the dirt. Let them dig up worms and other insects around the garden (but remind them not to disturb the plants). Have them sort and count the different insects. Get some books from the library or on your phone or tablet to help them (and you) figure out what each bug does and how it helps (or hurts) their plants. Teach them the diseases that you should watch out for, such as plant rot and leaf spots. Maybe you can learn some things too! I know I sure could.
Help with the Chores
One of the best things about having kids in the garden with you is that they will do the chores that you do not like to do. As a matter of fact, not only will they do them, but they will also ENJOY them! I know that seems wrong, but you are also teaching them how to cooperate. So, let them help pick the weeds, rake up the leaves, and water the garden. Just don’t let them fertilize or use weed killer because those are dangerous jobs that only adults should do!
Enjoying the Bounty
When it comes time to pick the vegetables or fruits (or flowers), let your little ones do the job. They will be so excited to see “their” vegetables and fruits! Whatever they grew, make sure they get to do the picking, cleaning and preparing. If you pick all the vegetables without them, you take away that feeling of “look what I did.” Once they have done all the preparations, you can even let them help cook if they are old enough. Even a two-year-old can stir a pot of peas or season the green beans.
The most important thing you are teaching them is that they can do these things. Rather than go to the store and buy carrots or peas, they can grow their own. Get them outside, away from the video games and tablets, soaking up some sun and getting dirty. Having fun with mom, or dad, or grandma, grandpa, whoever. I used to garden with my grandpa when I was young and I learned so much from him. He was a wonderful man with a green thumb and a lot of patience. Start a tradition with your kids or grandkids today that they can pass down to their kids and grandkids. It’s fun!