Whether it's an herb garden in a sunny window or beans outside, gardening can affect your child in positive ways. In fact, PBS reports that kids who take part in gardening projects perform better in science than those who didn't.
The garden doesn't have to be elaborate to be effective. You can create a garden on a windowsill in an apartment or in your existing landscape. Or, you can go all out and build a raised bed in the backyard. At a time when children spend so much time with electronic devices, it's nice to disconnect and go outside. Gardening provides a way for parents, children, and siblings to work together with a sense of purpose and responsibility. Let's take a look 5 gardening activities you can work on with your children.
1. Have Kids Build Their Own Garden
Whether it's a container, a plot in the ground or a raised bed, designate an area for each child. Smaller is better for young kids. Choose a spot that gets plenty of sunlight and has good soil.
You can recycle an old sandbox into a garden bed. This gives kids ownership of the space, which has an added sense of responsibility.
If you want your child to take gardening seriously, show them you believe in them. Don't give them cheap plastic tools. Buy real tools, or let them use your tools.
If you can't find good garden tools in children sizes, modify a hoe or shovel by shortening the handle with a saw. Decent work gloves are easy to find in small sizes.
Serious tools show your child they're doing important work in the garden.
2. Visit a Farmers Market
Your local farmers' market offers the perfect place for kids to learn about their food and gardening. Find a local market and plan your trip. You can find a list of farmers' markets, CSAs and on-farm markets on the USDA website. It's a searchable list, but not all markets are listed. If you don't find one on the list, keep looking.
You may visit the market just to explore, but consider buying plants that interest your children.
Pick a day with good weather when you have plenty of time to spend at the market. Before your visit, discuss what you will see there with your children. Encourage your children to ask questions at the different booths. Experienced farmers are wonderful teachers.
Your children will see the farmer's pride in his work. You may gain valuable advice on growing the vegetables in your own backyard. When you return home, prepare the fruits and vegetables you purchased at the market. Talk about what you learned about growing your own food.
Compare how local fresh food tastes compared to produce shipped to the grocery store from far away countries.
3. Engage With Your Kids From Seed to Table
Hopefully, the trip to the farmers market inspires your young gardeners to plant their own crops.
Choose plants that are easy to grow and have short growing seasons. Try plants that are fun to harvest, like sunflowers, pumpkins, and cherry tomatoes. As children succeed their interest will grow.
Don't be tempted to buy starter plants as a shortcut. Children learn more by planting seeds. They'll see the process from start to finish. Caring for seeds and young sprouts is an important part of the process.
Seeds can be started indoors in a warm room in early Spring. You can transplant them into pots until it's warm enough to put them outside in the ground.
Children learn best when they understand the connection between gardening and food. Explain that gardening is fun, but it also contributes food for the family.
Garden with your child, but allow them to harvest and prepare their crop. It doesn't matter if it's a single strawberry or a basket of carrots. Presenting the food they grew will make a child proud of their efforts.
If your child is very young, feel free to help with less pleasant garden tasks when they aren't watching. For example, a 3-year-old doesn't need to pick off garden slugs. Make sure plants receive enough water if your little one is stingy with the hose.
4. When Interest Wanes Try Something Else
The best time to garden with your child is when they're interested. If they become bored or distracted with gardening chores, find a related activity or new garden theme.
Building a scarecrow is a good choice. A scarecrow is directly related to the success of a garden. It's a fun crafts project that teaches kids the importance of garden crops.
Another option is to plant a butterfly garden. Who doesn't love butterflies? Creating a garden to attract specific butterflies is exciting. A butterfly garden has plants that feed the caterpillar stage as well as adult butterflies.
It's a wonderful way for kids to learn about the life cycle of a butterfly. They'll be able to see each stage of growth. The most important step is to choose the right plants.
Contact your local garden center for advice on native plants that will attract butterflies in your area. You'll need host plants for the caterpillars, and flower plants with nectar for the butterflies.
5. Take a Gardening Workshop
If you're unsure of your own gardening knowledge, ask the experts. There are workshops on every aspect of gardening -- from plant choice to composting.
Enroll in a workshop at a horticultural resource center with your children. Some workshops are designed for kids. Look for something hands-on like container gardening or pot painting.
Other workshops for children include creating a succulent garden or cut floral arrangements. You and your child will learn something new about gardening. Plus, you'll have something to take home and display afterward.
Added Benefits of Gardening With Your Children
Parents can teach their children about nature and science with gardening. It's also a way to encourage your kids to eat healthily. At any age, gardening is an excellent introduction to the growth cycle of plants.
You can even work on math skills by measuring plant growth and rainfall. Small children can count how many flowers appear on the plant each week.
Don't forget to discuss how worms and bees help plants to produce fruit and flowers. When choosing the plants you want to grow, talk about the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients each plant provides. Explain how foods help our bodies and minds to develop.
Gardening helps children learn important life skills that aren't taught in most schools. Gardening with your children teaches them to be aware of how nature works. Perhaps the best result is the self-esteem a child gets when he eats something he grew himself.
Visit Decker's Nursery Today
If you want to learn more about gardening visit Decker's Nursery with your children. Our experts are always more than happy to explain how to plant and nurture herbs, vegetables, and other plants.