Summer is here, parents and kids are outside more, and a good way to interact with the outdoors (and your kids!) is to plant a garden. Even young children can help in the garden without getting underfoot, and it's an amazing way to get even closer to your little ones.
Whether you're looking to plant an actual garden, or just have a few pots around the house or yard that you can work with, children love planting seeds. While toddlers can be messy, they are still totally capable of tossing in a few sunflower or marigold seeds into a planting area, and they can help cover them with more dirt or potting soil. Older kids can get more involved in planning, including deciding what plants work best in the space you have. If this is your first garden, don’t forget to start small to keep from becoming overwhelmed.
Most kids adore water, and a small watering can is one of the best investments you can make if you have a garden (container or otherwise). Even better news, they can be found pretty cheaply at nearly everywhere you shop. Sending a toddler along with a watering can is a truly adorable sight, and with a little instruction, they can take care of some of the watering needs. Older kids can refill their watering cans themselves, and they can also often use a hose successfully.
Weeding takes a little more practice, and really young kids will need close supervision as they're just as apt to yank out a seedling as they are a troublesome weed. Once they gets the hang of it, though, it can be a fun project to do together under the warm summer sun. Older kids can often go off on their own and really help a garden shine.
Sometimes, it may be necessary to move a plant from one pot to another, or one patch of earth to another. Teaching a child how to do this safely is a good lesson that can come in handy as she moves throughout life.
If mulch is part of your garden plan, your kids can absolutely help lay it down. Show them where it goes (not too close to the plants!) and explain that it helps provide a buffer from the heat (or the cold) for the root systems. And also let them know it also helps the soil retain water. Another benefit is that it keeps weeds from flourishing. Your kids, though, may not be that interested in all of this right away, but don't let that stop you from sharing the info.
Things to Keep in Mind
Kids are not small adults, and they have their own timetables, attention spans, and motivations. If your child is not interested in planting seeds in rigid lines, let it be, and don't force weeding lessons if your pupil is distracted by caterpillars. Also, in addition to a more formal garden area, create a space exclusively for play. Provide containers, digging tools (forego cheap plastic tools and purchase quality kid-sized items for best results), pebbles, rocks, bark, leaves, and other outdoorsy (and dirty!) things to experiment and explore with. Gardening, while technically work, is actually pretty fun. It's also educational, and best of all (from a kid's point of view), it's an excellent excuse to get dirty.