Visit my new Column at Suite 101--The Kid's Garden!!
Gardening with kids can be a wonderful adventure or it can be pure frustration. It's all up to you, the adult, to make certain the kids have fun and learn while doing their tasks. Choose activities that are of interest and appropriate to each child. Try to pick garden jobs that the kids want to do (and ask to do!) . There are times, when my son can't help as the plant is too delicate or the seeds too fine. Then I find other things he like s to do, such as pull radishes, pick tomatos or beans, spread mulch, dig holes in the compost pile, pull a wagonful of seedlings around to the beds, run errands, whatever.
Don't expect that your young child will be a vigilant weeder (although I'm sure some are). I try to teach Jimmy which are weeds and which are our seedlings. Then I let him pull a few weeds and he's ready to do something else. He also takes play breaks when he needs a change. My 2 year old niece, Raenie did not see much gardening time this year. She played outside in Jimmy's Bean TeePee and to picked some flowers for bouquets. She likes pulling a tiny wagon around especially when I put a few small flowers or sticks in it. She has pulled a few plants out and mangled them a bit, but we make sure we have plenty of seedlings (we plan for such rough handling, by planting lots of extra seeds). She loves to be part of planting, and so sometimes she and Jimmy will dig holes in a freshly tilled bed that I'm not ready to plant yet. Other times, they pick rocks and give them rides in their wagons. Sometimes Raenie rides in Jimmy's big wagon. They both love rides in the wheelburrow too.
This year Jimmy had a TeePee in his garden surrounded by annuals and sunflowers. He still plays in his TeePee (even though the beans, etc are gone. He enjoyed his proximity to plants and insects. His birdhouse gourds did not get big this year (due to strange weather), but the beans grew well. He also added Morning Glories and Moonflowers to brighten it up even more. We made some stepping stones for his garden so he can get into his TeePee without sinking in the mud (or squashing his flowers). One step stone has his hand prints and one has his foot prints. It sure was fun! Other years his garden has grown an assortment of marigolds, zinneas, nasturtiums, petunias, and various sized sunflowers. This year we expanded his garden size so he could have a TeePee. Maybe next year we can do a sun flower house. Then again, he really liked the TeePee and is already talking about a bigger one for next year. We'll see what happens!
Be sure to help your child participate in local flower show and county fairs. Jimmy has so much fun displaying his flowers and having his grandparents take him to the show to point out his flowers. He gets quite a few ribbons in the children's divisions (and in the adult divisions too). These shows are often looking for more participants so watch for them and join in.
Please e-mail your suggestions for gardening with children . I will include them and attribute them to you (if you give your name) as space and time allow.
Jimmy's garden early in the season
Hints for making gardening fun
© 1997, 1998, 1999 Linda's Garden
updated March 15, 1999