Gardening with children is the best way to teach them about the circle of life. The seed dies but is resurrected as a plant. The plant produces flowers or fruit, and the seeds can be saved for the next season so the cycle is self-perpetuating.
In addition to learning about science, teaching your children to garden is a good way to instill healthy eating habits, teach them about diet and nutrition, and encourage them to eat more fruits and vegetables.
After all, what's more fun? Buying a bag of baby carrots at the store or picking them from your own garden patch? Eating a salad that mom slaved over for hours or picking your own greens and tossing your own salad? Let them scrub up their carrots and radishes, dip them into ranch dip, and munch! Here is a guide to the best types of gardens and plants for pint-sized gardeners.
Getting Started Gardening With Children
You can make a child’s garden quite easily with planters. Use plastic containers that you already have around the house and drill or punch a few drainage holes in the bottom or buy some inexpensive containers at flea markets, thrift stores, or your local discount stores.
Use easy to grow plants such as lettuce, radishes, basil, dill and cilantro, and you can grow a nice crop of vegetables and herbs for about $20. Involve your kids by letting them choose the planters and the types of vegetables. They can fill the planters with soil, plant the plants, and do daily chores like watering and thinning the plants.
If you are working with toddlers and preschoolers, your best bet is to opt for seedlings from a local garden store or nursery. These little learners have a an extremely short attention span and no tolerance for waiting for results, so there is not need to frustrate them (or yourself) by trying to start plants from seeds.
Kindergarteners and older elementary students should be able to wait for a seed to germinate, and if you incorporate a plant journal or a growth dairy into your gardening plans, they will be eager to check the plants each day for the signs of any new growth.
Here is a guide to creating container gardens inexpensively:
- Buy planters from local dollar or discount stores.
- Use organic potting soil or an enriched growth medium.
- Reuse household foodstuffs like crushed eggshells for fertilizer.
- Start vegetables from seed in natural eggshell planters or purchase ready-to-plant seedlings from a local nursery.
- Aim for growing small crops such as lettuce and radishes, which mature quickly and satisfy a child's natural impatience for quick results.
The joy of gardening can be enjoyed by anyone, regardless of geography or access to land. Urban gardening with children lets parents teach life skills like growing your own food, caring for living things, working with your hands, and learning to be self-sufficient.
Gardening Life Lessons
The term urban gardening refers to the ingenious use of the tiniest scrap of soil to cultivate a garden. From apartment dwellers to residents of the sprawling concrete jungles to the homeowners with modest parcels of land, small gardens are popping up across America. These tiny garden patches are just one of the ways that you can experience gardening with children.
Even though you may not believe that you have any available land in which to garden, take another look at your property and surroundings. Is there any area around bushes or shrubs that could support a shade tolerant plant? Could you do some companion planting with vegetables in a flower garden?
Alternatively, do you have a patio, balcony or sunny window sill that will provide the sunlight your indoor garden will need to flourish and produce? Use your ingenuity and you may be surprised at where you can find the space to tuck in a few radishes here, a few carrots there and so forth.
Because they may not be as dependent on land or climate conditions, urban gardens can be started at any time of the year and are an excellent way to teach children about the cycle of the seasons as well as the cycle of life.
Gardening with children is a tailor-made teaching opportunity. This type of urban horticulture is perfect for kids because it is compact in size, planted with leaf or small-size crops, and easy to keep up and harvest.
What do kids learn from gardening? How about:
- Birth, life and death
- Enhanced fine motor skills
If those benefits are not enough, consider this. Children are more willing to eat food they grew themselves, the bending, stooping, and stretching is great exercise, and being outside ensures a daily dose of vitamin D.
There just doesn't seem to be any disadvantages to teaching your children to garden, and what child does not enjoy playing in the dirt? Whether you opt for container gardens or you decide to scout out your living environment to see where you can sneak in a few plants or vegetables, you will find that gardening with your children can be one of the most fulfilling hobbies you will ever have.
Gardening With Children: Growing Your Own Salad
Best Gardens for Children
Container, window box, or vertical garden styles work best. Container gardens are easily moved to areas of sunlight, there is no weeding, and even the tiniest tot can plant and harvest a crop. Time investments are minimal, so they fit nicely into busy family schedules.
Best Plant Choices for Little Gardeners
The best plants for kids are those that are low maintenance, fast maturing, and safe. Check plants against a poisonous plant directory before including them in gardens for kids.
Here are some time-tested and quite safe crops that are simple to grow and that children will enjoy cultivating: radishes, cabbage, carrots, onions, broccoli, beans, cucumbers, or squash. Include a few just-for-fun vegetables like pumpkins, watermelon, or decorative gourds if space permits.
Gardening with children is a great teaching opportunity for them but you may find that you learn just as much as your children do. After all, you will be tasked with using your wits to find a space to garden or you will have to come up with the appropriate containers. You'll have to select the best plants and oversee the process.
While it may involve a little more work than you planned on, when you see the excited look on your children's faces as their baby plants grow and produce a harvest, you'll realize that it was well worth the expense and effort.