If there’s one thing adults wish they could forget about kids, it's their love of all things dirt and dirty. From making mud pies to seeing how deep they can dig a hole, kids love to make messes as they explore the world around them. While it can be infuriating to find your child caked in mud right after you've given them a bath or scrubbed them down, there is a silver lining here. Now is the perfect time to teach your kids where their food comes from and get them interested in gardening!
Use Those Dirt Skills!
Some people keep their children and grandchildren away from the garden in fear that they'll be too rough on tender plants or fling dirt around. Instead of punishing or restricting your kids, try putting their affinity for dirt to good use. Let them help you dig some planting holes for your seeds and seedlings, or give them a small shovel to turn over the dirt in the garden with. Give them simple tasks that'll you be able to supervise. You’ll save yourself some time by assigning some of your more tedious garden chores to your little helpers, and they'll be doing something they love while working towards concrete goals.
Get Them Growing
There are plenty of other ways to get those little hands to help you in the garden. Teach your kids how gently transplant seedlings, put up tomato cages, plant seeds, make plant markers, and everything else you do after working the soil. By watching you perform these tasks, your children will learn how to do them more quickly and be eager to get some hands-on experience in!
If you have some extra planting space, consider giving your kids their own small garden to tend. Next time you visit your local DIY store or gardening center, bring them along and allow them to pick out the seeds and seedlings of their choice. Since they're getting a say in the kinds of plants you'll be growing, they'll be more likely to express interest and become actively involved in caring for them. Let them dream of having a giant pumpkin to harvest at Halloween or sweet strawberries to snack on in the summer heat. They may even decide that they'd rather display some beautiful flowers in their mini-gardens.
Show and Tell
Starting seeds off in an area where not much else is happening or planting already-grown seedlings can often be a bit boring for younger children. In these instances, they aren’t getting to see the actual growing process. To pique their curiosity and help them understand how seeds become seedlings, you'll want to perform a little experiment with your kids. Beans, peas, and other crops with large seeds are the ideal test subjects here.
Have the children pick out a seed and wet a paper towel. Next, they’ll place the seed on the paper towel and put them both in a ziplock bag. Each day, they will check the seed for changes and record its progress in a journal by either taking notes or drawing pictures. They'll get to see all of the developmental stages the seed goes through, and you’ll have a chance to teach them about the plant's anatomy as it begins to sprout.
To give it more room for growth, you'll want to move your seedling from the ziplock into a small cup as it starts to mature. When it’s ready to plant outdoors, you can have your future gardeners put it in their section of the garden. This is sure to fill your children with pride and spark their interest in cultivating plant life.
Keep Them Involved
Once you've turned them on to gardening, it's important to keep your kids committed to it. Point out how the plants they've helped care for have changed over time. Introduce them to some common pests and show them how to handle them. Explain the difference between these pests and beneficial insects to them, and tell them why some bugs can be good to have in the garden. Make sure they keep helping you with little chores. You may hate pulling weeds but find that your little helper loves the challenge of it. Invest in some kid’s gardening tools to accommodate their smaller, sensitive hands.
Getting kids into gardening from a young age is beneficial for everyone involved. The parent gets a break from doing the chores they hate, and the little ones learn that healthy food can come from somewhere other than the grocery store. Plus, they'll be much more excited to eat the fruits and vegetables that they've grown themselves!