Children and Gardening

There are several methods recommended for helping kids appreciate gardening. Some people suggest luring kids into the garden by creating play spaces for them. Others believe that the kids will develop an appreciation for gardening as they grow everything from seeds. Another plan promotes the idea of burgeoning interest as the potential young gardener assists in routine garden tasks.  This is easily accomplished when your child "Discovers the Wonder of the Garden for themselves.

Environmental attitudes are formed at the pre-school age (and we all know how important that has become).  Kids need to understand how important plants and the environment are to themselves and everyone else. And they will carry these attitudes and this knowledge into their adult lives. Through gardening, learning about the environment can be lots of fun.

They learn the rhythms of nature, the character-building virtues of patience, responsibility, sharing, acceptance of loss, experience the joys of seeing planted seeds and bulbs sprout and eventually bloom, and many others. Gardening offers a vehicle to teach many things including: science, botany, ethnobotany, language, history, recycling (composting), math (calculating volumes, numbers of plants or seeds, weights, areas, etc.), agriculture, entomology, plant pathology, soils, and lots more.

As any gardener knows, cultivating plants is relaxing, exciting, and interesting!  Recently, studies have been undertaken to scientifically verify what we have known all along - that gardening is good for you.

When you plan a child's garden, plan for the imagination, an adult may have a vegetable or herb garden, but a child might think of it as Alice in Wonderland's or Peter Rabbit's garden. Think about the stories your child has heard or read to get ideas for their garden. A bean pole teepee could be a Jack in the Beanstalk garden or Cinderella's garden could have pumpkins and lady slippers. Or an A-B-C garden might be fun. If large enough, everything from asters to zinnias could be planted. A sense of personal ownership in the garden is important to a child.

Adults may want everything in neat rows, but kids don't care, and the things don't have to be that way, what is important is that the garden belongs to the child, and the child should be involved in the planning of it.

Children should be encouraged to go into their garden and to visit it often. There should be no "NO" signs or negative attitudes.

Almost every book on kids & gardening tells you to plant radishes, mostly because they grow fast,. But do your kids like radishes? Mine don't!  Usually they take one bite and yell 'yuck,' they don't want them. Other crops such as carrots, pumpkins, tomatoes and sweet corn will take a bit longer, but they are worth the extra wait. Most children like these vegetables and will take pride in growing these for themselves.

The child's garden could also be a flower garden. Make a rainbow garden with broad stripes of different colors that end in a pot of golden marigolds. Or consider an all green garden, how about a Kermit the Frog green garden with lettuce, spinach and chard?