Imagine little hands tilling patches of soil, planting seeds, playing with mud—isn’t merely the thought of it therapeutic? Gardening with kids can be a fun, educational activity. Through vegetable and herb gardening, your kids can learn about our environment, soil science and minerals, foods, nutrition, and chemicals (such as pesticides and herbicides).
There’s nothing more satisfying than watching your kids enjoy the fruits of their labor—quite literally. Here’s how you can get them started with the art and practice of gardening:
1. Give Them Their Own Garden Beds
“Kids are fascinated by how things grow, so create a fresh herb garden in a window box. Allow the kiddos to help decorate the planter box, fill it with dirt, and plant the seeds,” says parenting expert Shira Stein of PishPoshBaby. Keep the box or bed small, fill it with the best soil, and make sure it’s exposed to a good amount of sunlight. After all, you don’t want to be setting your little ones up for failure.
2. Go Outdoors
Stein says a good way to motivate children is to take them on a walk through your neighborhood. “Point out the different types of plants in your neighbors’ yards. Talk about the types of plants that grow well in your region due to rain, temperature, and growing season. If you have bunnies or other wildlife that come through, talk about the types of plants that attract them into populated areas.” Doing so might excite them about the very idea of having your own garden.
3. Give Them The Right Tools
“My son and I both worked on preparing the backyard area for a garden, purchasing the materials, seeds, and supplies, and actually planting it. He has his own set of gloves and his own small shovel to make things easier,” says David Bakke, lifestyle expert at Money Crashers. But cheap plastic kids’ gardening tools are worse than no tools at all—they break easily, and can frustrate the child. Minnie and Moon stocks a variety of unique garden tools that are especially suited for young children, and are very popular with school garden programs.
4. Eat The Produce
Candi Wingate, president at Care4Hire, recommends eating your first ripened vegetables as soon as you’ve removed them, so your kids can experience and be proud of what they have helped cultivate. “My son chose to grow strawberries and tomatoes in his portion of the garden, and some of the best fun came from eating what he had grown,” says David Bakke, lifestyle expert at Money Crashers. What’s more, recent studies have shown that kids who grow their own veggies are more likely to eat healthy.
5. ‘Buy’ Produce From Them
Gretchen Anderson, author of The Backyard Chicken Fight, says a family she knows “hired” their young daughter to garden in the backyard. “Essentially, she didn’t want to garden this season. So, they told her they would buy the produce from her—whatever she grew. I thought this was a really clever idea.” If green veggies don’t excite them, maybe the other greens will!
6. Show Off Their Work
When giving garden tours to friends, be sure to point out the children’s beds. Take a photo of their harvest and send it to loved ones. The attention given to their work is the best motivator for children to stay involved with a project.
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