For children, gardening should be a hobby, not a chore. Getting your kids interested in gardening not only gets them outside and teaches them about nature, but it also is an excellent way to keep them occupied while you work in the garden, allowing you to spend more time together as a family. So, how do you inspire your children to join you in gardening activities? Here are some ideas.
FOLLOWING IN YOUR FOOTSTEPS. Kids like to imitate adults, especially their parents, so one way to get your kids interested in gardening is to get them some kid-size gardening tools to match the ones you use. Good suggestions are a small wheelbarrow, water bucket, shovel, rake, gloves, etc.
MUD PIES. While you can eventually move towards having a formal kid’s garden that your child maintains if he or she develops an interest in gardening, it is probably best to just stick to the basics when you start out.
One of those basics, and something most kids love to do, is digging and playing in dirt. While you will likely not want your kids digging holes in your lawn or established areas of the garden, you can let them dig in new beds before you have planted anything. Or, if possible, set aside a part of the garden that is just for you r child to dig or do whatever he or she wants.
SEEDS OF SUCCESS. Another basic part of gardening, and which children enjoy, is planting seeds. This will keep your child occupied for weeks and months as you watch the seeds grow. It also doesn’t require a lot of work or preparation. A Styrofoam cup or egg carton, some soil and a packet of seeds are all you need.
Which seeds should you start with? My personal favorite is the sunflower. It is a fun and interesting flower, kids can eat the seeds (although you will have to dry, prepare and roast them first), and it is very fast growing. Once your sunflower begins growing, your kids can use a ruler or tape measure to chart its progress. They may also enjoy drawing or painting a picture of the growing or mature sunflower.
Other fun projects include planting seeds to attract butterflies (daises, zinnias, petunias, etc. or ladybugs (Blue Cornflower, Fennel, etc).
Speaking of bugs, many kids like bugs, especially caterpillars, worms and ladybugs. Letting your child explore your garden and find bugs can be a fun activity in the garden.
A GARDEN OF THEIR OWN. Once your kids learn to like being in the garden, you can begin some more formal activities, including letting them pick and plant some plants of their own. Having a separate part of the garden set aside especially for them is ideal, but if that isn’t possible, letting them plant in containers can also be fun.
Other fun activities can include letting your kids:
• Decorate and design labels for the plants in your garden
• Help harvest vegetables or cut flowers
• Build and decorate a scarecrow for your garden
• Visit your local botanical gardens
What if your kids begin to lose interest in their garden or plants? It is probably best not to force them to maintain their garden or make it a chore. Instead, just try to rekindle their interest. Tell them how their sunflower has really grown this week and how you are going to go measure it. Or get excited about a new flower that is blooming.
By Vincent Iannelli
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