Once upon a time, growing food was commonplace. During World War II, Victory Gardens were in front yards, windowsills, and pots. Seventy years later, the green thumbs of our past may or may not be passed on. Are you looking to pass on your love of gardening? Daunted by gardening with the active children in tow? Gardening with kids can be enjoyable and relaxing, but it is all about managing expectations.
Do Your Research
If heading to the library gives you flashbacks of anxiety from writing a term paper, planting expert Burpee has free advice on what you should plant, container gardens, companion planting, and so much more. Learn when to plant in your area to give your plants their best chance of survival, despite your not-so-green thumb. Make this a research project with your school-age children – have them pick out their favorites and research when to plant. Have your littles choose pots at the store. As a family, watch the how-to videos for planting whichever seed or plant you are planting.
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Tools for Gardening with Kids
You may find that regular-sized tools, just aren’t going to make your kids excited about gardening. Try some of these suggestions to help them learn independence and work on their fine motor skills.
Seeds: After making the choice of which seeds to plant, head to your local home improvement store to choose the seed packets. Seedsheets are perfect for little hands and not-so-green thumbs. The sheets make it easy for littles to put them into pots without the worry of dirt being thrown everywhere.
Dirt: Whether you are getting soil from Target, Amazon, or home improvement stores, make sure to get a pound for every medium size pot or larger you are planting.
Pots: From the research, determine how much space you need for each seed or plant. Unless you are companion planting, the best rule of thumb is one plant per planter.
Shovels, rakes, and gloves: Kid-friendly kits are available at Target and even the Dollar stores starting in the spring for planting season. Tools with prints of Peppa Pig and Mickey, adds an extra element of fun for kids, especially younger ones. Earth-friendly options from Green Toys provide a double bonus to protecting the earth – helping your little one learn gardening skills while using 100% recycled plastic.
Cushion: If you have ever worked with children on chores (ugh, Mom), comfort is paramount to the success of the activity. Invest in kneeling cushions to make gardening with kids more comfortable, and in all honesty for yourself as well.
Armed with the knowledge from your local library, a book, or the internet, planting inside containers can be done year-round, but planting outside depends on where you live. Little ones love water, hand them a cup to hydrate the plants. The only true worry is over-watering as sometimes “that plant just looks thirsty, mom.“
Gardening with kids can get messy. Prepare yourself, have the hose ready to spray everyone off afterward, and maybe plan on having a good old-fashioned water hose fight, too.
Manage expectations on when to expect a harvest. Children (and adults) are still learning delayed gratification, so they may want to see that plant grow right now. Make a chain to countdown to expected harvest day, and make sure to preface that it is a guess and may not be exact. (Sounds a bit like managing expectations on deployment, huh?)
When the bounty has grown, everyone will love pulling a tomato off the vine or clipping an herb for dinner. Working with scissors (if age appropriate) allows for the practice of fine motor skills. And add a little homeschooling in by having the kids count the leaves of basil you pull.
Of course, there’s no guarantee your garden will grow, but you are now armed with the knowledge on how to start your garden, and it will be a learning experience for all. Even if you end up moving before the harvest, or going through “weather never seen here before,” you can enjoy the quality family time of planting and tending your garden. Gardening with kids really can be fun!
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Photo Credits: Heather Walsh, Eastern Sky Photography