|If you are the type of person who flips through gardening articles all winter long and can’t wait for spring to put all of your knowledge to work, … but you literally flinch at the idea of “gardening with your children.” Don’t feel bad, I too understand because twelve years ago I would’ve had a massive coronary if my children walked within ten feet of my gardens! What initially began as a 4-H project for my third grader at the time, turned out to fill up my yard to what has now become a living history, in the making.
I have three boys; each learned their colors, their numbers and a lot of their vocabulary from gardening with my husband and myself over the years. From planting vegetable gardens, herb gardens in our kitchen to planting trees in honor of anything from Arbor Day to birthdays, our family has done it. Gardening with children is so much fun, when my second son was born, his first garden project was a beautiful purple violet he picked up at the grocery store. He was only two years old at the time and everyone who visited our home had to take a look at his little purple violet.
My oldest son actually got us started with him, he brought home a pine tree. It was a frail sort, if there was ever a “tree runt”, this poor little pine surely would’ve brought home first prize! We call the same pine, “one mighty pine” now. Our son says he used to water it with kool-aid, go sugar!
If you have young children at home, start early with small projects your children will enjoy and let them do all the work. There are many age appropriate task for every child, no matter how “little” they are. Listed below are some age appropriate garden responsibilities for young children.
6 months-1 year
1 year-2 years
- Allow the children to go outside to watch you in your garden.
- Watering the garden is extremely fun at this age!
- Let them play in the dirt with you, let them help you plant new plants.
2 years-4 years
- Give you children a plant to take care of, let them do all of the work with your guidance.
- Give children a bucket and let them help you when picking tomatoes from the garden.
- Talk to your children and tell them what you are doing, ask them what they are doing.
4 years-6 years
- Plant a tree that belongs to your child, encourage them to draw pictures of their special tree and hang them on the refrigerator.
- Plant seeds of colorful flowers, mark them with colored Popsicle sticks representing the color of what each flower will be and each time you go outside, tell your children: “these will be red, these will be yellow, these will be orange, etc.” When your flowers are standing tall, your child will know all of the colors!
- Dedicate a flower garden to your child, give them their own area, let them pick out the kinds of flowers they want to plant and then stand back to let them be the expert.
- Play games with your children, tell them names of flowers and see how much they can remember or count all the red flowers, all the blue flowers and so on.
Children really have lots of fun gardening, mine are so proud of the things they have done over the years. My oldest son says it will be really hard for him to leave home one day, he wants to take all of his flowers with him! If you have a love for gardening, pass it on because children really love gardening and it’s great for them. Gardening teaches children respect for the environment, develops self esteem because a child sees they can grow something beautiful on their own and when they care for plants, it gives them a sense of pride to know they’ve been a part of that plants entire development.
- Start a gardening calendar, plant a new flower every weekend of a different color. On the calendar let your child draw the new flower or simply paste the flower card on the spot. Each weekend measure the other flowers you’ve planted, along with your child’s height and record the results on the calendar. Not only is this a lot of fun, it’s also a beautiful keepsake to mark unforgettable summers!
- On rainy days, let your children help you plan new gardens. Tell your children a few different spots where you would like to plant new things. On a sheet of paper, draw out your plan, your flower placement and let you child do one too.
- Throughout the winter months, put your children in charge of caring for indoor plants. Tell them the importance of water, sunlight and plant food.
- Let your children water the entire garden, not only is this fun for them but it also gives them a sense of accomplishment being able to do it on their own.
Children learn responsibility from gardening as well, my oldest son honestly didn’t seem too thrilled at first and we didn’t want to force him. After a while, my son would ask, “mom are you gonna water the garden today?” I wondered what he was getting at and one day I replied, “no, I don’t feel like watering today.” Thirty minutes later, my son was outside watering the gardens and he continued almost every day.
We have a new edition to our garden this year, my husband and my son built from scratch a very unique bird house, complete with matching feeder. It was a rather long project with a lot of blood, sweat and tears involved but it’s finished, it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever laid my eyes on!
If you have children or grandchildren, get them involved and let your children name their plants too, we have a rose bush named Alexander that’s been with us for twelve years. I hope you have lots of fun gardening with your children, remember, let them be the boss and you do all the rest! No matter what you do, garden with your children!