Gardening is magical. Place a tiny sphere in soil, sprinkle with water, add a dash of time, and soon, stems and leaves appear. Mix the magic of gardening with the wonder of childhood and presto - you have a gardener!
While the magic is strong, there are a few things you and your kids can do to ensure the success of the spell. Make gardening fun, teach them they can touch and explore, and keep it creative.
Play in the Garden
Kids learn so much watching their parents, so be playful when you’re in the garden. When mom smiles and laughs while planting or digging, kids understand it’s fun. Show your excitement when the first daylily of the season blooms. Relish the taste of your first cherry tomato. Take time to be silly and encourage your child’s imagination. Perhaps, have your toddler take a daily look for Jack on the beanstalk as your climbing green beans grow.
Design a Fun Project
Gear a garden project to your kids, says Amy Cober, Youth Education Coordinator at Hershey Gardens. Cober says theme gardens are big with kids. One theme Cober uses is a pizza garden. Choose a location and explain that you’ll grow pizza ingredients like basil, tomatoes, and green peppers in that spot. Make the garden a circle for an extra smile. Once you harvest veggies from that spot, have your child make the pizza with you!
Another project Cober suggests is growing marigolds and grass in the shape of your child’s name. To start, clear off a couple of square yards of soil. Have your child draw her name in the soil with her finger. Your child can then add marigold seeds into the letters. Fill in with grass seed between and around the letters. Cover the seeds lightly with soil, water in gently and check back every few days.
Tailor fun for your gardeners-in-training with kiddos’ passions in mind. Extend what they love into the garden. Give a fashionista a pretty garden hat with matching gloves to wear while pulling a weed or two. Suggest a gear-head use a toy tractor to drop seeds in a row.
Having a budding scientist? Theresa Loe, an educational garden consultant to Los Angeles area schools, says make gardening a scientific adventure.
“We do a lot of science and exploring,” says Loe. “We study bugs, plants, worms, soil structure and weather.”
Engage all your child’s senses in the garden. Kids enjoy touching plants with interesting textures like lamb’s ear. Sense of smell is very powerful. Kids can immediately relate to it and enjoy smelling different flowers.
“Gardening is most inviting to kids once they know it’s okay to touch, feel, explore,” says Loe. “Many kids hesitate at first because they are probably used to being told ‘Don't touch’. But when we take kids into the garden we want them to feel free to touch and dig in the dirt.”
Encourage your child’s independence and confidence. Start planning your gardens with your kids in the winter. Let them browse seed catalogs and chose flowers or vegetables they want to grow. Have them start seeds in simple Dixie cups on a windowsill. “Kids feel successful as they watch a plant they started grow,” says Cober.
Choose a corner of the garden and let your child plant what she wishes, how she wishes. She might plant broccoli right next to a sunflower; too close and all crooked. Lighten up! It’s gardening and should be fun. Cober says to keep the size manageable so the child doesn’t feel overwhelmed.
Your kids will be wide-eyed as they watch the seedlings emerge and grow, knowing they placed the seeds in the soil and unlocked the magic that is nature all by themselves.