Seeding a New Generation of Gardeners
better place for a child to get his or her hands dirty than in a
garden. It is a perfect environment for kids to play and explore. In the
garden, children can do more than plant and harvest vegetables; they
can also nurture aspirations, grow ideas and harvest values. They can
learn to enjoy the simple pleasures of growing something, puttering in
the soil and discovering the quality of fresh food.
The virtues of
involving kids in gardening activities include the development of many
important skills. The Internet and gardening books are full of lesson
plans connecting gardening with everything from math to biology to
language arts and beyond. However, most parents will just be happy to
see their children in the garden playing. Fresh air and physical
activity has many benefits for children, complementing the skills gained
from digging, weeding and watering. It also connects them with nature
and introduces a sense of peace back into their busy lives. They chase
frogs and butterflies, excavate earthworms or wash off a fresh carrot
and munch on it as they water the rest of the crop.
experiences in the garden also connect children to their food. In many
ways, people have become disconnected from nature, the land, agriculture
and our food. Kids learn that apples grow on trees, that potatoes have
to be dug up and that carrots are actually roots. Gardening allows them
to build that connection to agriculture and experience fresh foods.
Unless you buy from a local grower or the farmers market, so much of the
produce we eat has traveled great distances and is not always at its
We all know there is nothing like the taste of new
potatoes, peas, or carrots or a ‘real’ tomato, picked and eaten fresh
from the garden. Even if it is only growing a tomato plant in a
container on the deck, showing children the connection between plants
and food is a real and lasting gift.
Decorating Their Space
are numerous kits and crafts available that encourage kids to decorate
their space in the garden. Stepping stones, bird feeders, found items,
and old toys are all great ideas. You can build on one garden theme or
let it be an eclectic collection. Follow your child’s lead.
Peaking Your Child’s Interest
Most children intuitively are
interested in some aspect of gardening, including digging, watering,
and picking out plants. However, gardening takes time, causing many
children to lose interest and become impatient while waiting for
vegetables to grow. It is important to build in some pay off at each
step of the process. This might be as simple as allowing them to dig the
holes, water the freshly potted plants, or pick out the flowers and
herbs. Another good idea is not to start everything from seed. Take your
kids to a local nursery and buy a few bedding plants to get the process
started right away.
Their Own Space
love to have spaces to call their own, where they are the boss and can
decide the rules. Assign your child a place in the garden where he or
she can decide what to plant and where. This gives them a sense of
autonomy. If you do not have gardening space, give them a potted plant
to call their own.
Planning and Shopping
you start, talk to your children about what they would like to see in
the garden. Browse through seed catalogues with them and let them draw
out maps or pictures of the garden. Take them with you to buy plants -
discuss your successes and have them smell the herbs. Find out which are
their favourite vegetables or flowers and try something new together.
This will make them feel like they are part of the plan and engage them
in the process.
Tools of the Trade
kids don’t necessarily need their own tools it may be one way of
motivating them. However, most kids can have fun with a spoon for
digging and a recycled jar for bug collecting.
it simple… silly! Gently guide your child to choose some plants that
will be successful and not to get carried away with too much. If their
plants don’t grow, or the garden becomes too much work for them, they
will likely lose interest. A planter may be the answer, especially if
your family is too busy to tend to a full garden. For families who spend
the summer at the lake, a good alternative is for the kids to plant a
small pot of their favourite flowers and herbs and take it to the lake
with them. Younger kids may even like to make planters as gifts for
their teachers. By encouraging individual potters, children still get
the experience of planting and nurturing plants, even without a full
plants are easier to grow than others. Choosing plants that can take
the heat will help ensure success. Some good choices include: marigolds,
geraniums, pansies, sunflowers, carrots, radishes, and onions.
Pumpkins, zucchini, beans, peas and cucumbers are usually pretty hardy
once you get them started. Make it FUN! Kids love to water but make sure
they don’t over do it. Too much water is not good for the plants. Make
jobs like pulling weeds fun. It’s a job you may not enjoy, but don’t let
your kids pick up on that. Make the task fun by turning weed-pulling
into a game or contest - see who can pull the most weeds. Take breaks to
collect bugs, plan a picnic in the garden after the work is done, or
take crayons and paper and colour a picture of the garden.
Follow your Child’s Lead
A garden can be so many things to
so many people. Maybe you have a budding young scientist who would be
interested in soil testing, an artist who draws beautiful flower
pictures or a chef who likes to cook using what is grown in the garden.
As parents, we can expose our kids to positive activities like
gardening, follow their lead, and see what grows.
Choose a Garden Theme
a theme is a great way to not only capture a child’s imagination but
also to extend an interest into the garden. A favourite book like “Peter
Rabbit” is a great theme. Another idea is choosing flowers that will
attract hummingbirds or butterflies. Other examples include:
daughter is in Girl Guides and loves the stories about fairies and
pixies. We like to choose flowers for our garden that the fairies who
live in our yard would like. Dorothy and Kate
my daughter and son have their own patch of garden. They pick out the
plants for the garden and we plant them together. They both love horses
and have given their gardens a western flare; decorating with horse
shoes, an old cowboy boot and a set of cow horns. Brenda, Cody
My son loves pizza so we themed his garden around the vegetables and herbs that make up a pizza sauce…Darren & Josh
Encouraging Children to Explore and Discover Gardening.
By Peter and Dorothy Sandercock
First Printed in Growing Saskatchewan | April 2006
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