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I love to involve the kids in everyday things.
In part, because play to me means something completely different than it does to them. To me, play means I’m making, cooking or growing something.
Fortunately, kids love helping mommy, so very often I devise ways that we can do these things together.
Getting the kids in the garden is one of them.
Quick wee side note: Because I know how hard it can be to come up with fun games each time, I’ve created a 7-day challenge for parents of toddlers and preschoolers. This is a great way to get started if you’ve fallen out of the habit of playing with your kids, or to learn about fresh ideas and activities.
Each day for 1 week, you will receive an e-mail with an activity that you can do with your kids. Join the newsletter and start your 7 days of play today!
Why I like to have the kids in the garden
I find that kids also have a very natural joy at watching things grow. And though I know that empathy is something that only developes over time, I do see time and time again how young children love to care for other little things. Must be some kind of unspoken agreement between one little thing and another
I suppose that gardening is one of those activities that teaches kids to care. Which is already one important reason to do it.
On top of that, they also learn a lot about nature.
How plants grow, for instance. And how to go from a tiny little seed to a living plant.
They learn the discipline of tending a garden, and seedlings, on a daily basis.
Gardening with kids teaches them about where our food comes from.
Additionally, they learn one more important lesson: that you reap what you sow. You can be proud of your work, or disappointed because you didn’t put in any work. But a garden will give you what you put in.
Before you take the kids in the garden
Use easy plants
First of, do a little homework (if you need to). Some plants are just difficult to grow. This might be due to the fact that some plants just need a lot of care, or because they are not native to your region. Check this beforehand to prevent your kids from learning on the job…I mean doing some incidental learning…
Get some small, but quality tools
I don’t want my kids waving a big shovel around, but they do need something to re-pot plants with.
So I give them smaller, age appropriate equivalents. The youngest gets a plastic one since he’s prone to waving stuff around and the oldest gets a smaller metal and wood one, since he’s stronger and can be trusted not to smack anyone over the head with it.
With kids in the garden
Develop a clear routine for the kids in the garden
A garden routine shows kids in a clear way what needs to happen.
We weed the garden in the morning. We go outside and pull out any weeds we haven’t spotted before and collect them in a bucket before adding them to the compost bin. The kids take this responsibility very seriously
We water our plants in the late afternoon, once the sun has left our garden.
The kids learn that this is because the water drops will otherwise work as a lens and the plant will get burned by the sun. It’s terribly cute to see how concerned they are about that.
This is also when we re-pot any plants that need it. The kids help with this too.
I give them a sack of dirt, and they use their little garden shovels to scoop it into the bigger pot. Once there’s enough (mommy’s call) one of them creates a hole in the middle for the plant to fit in. Then I lift the plant into it’s new home and together we push the dirt over the roots.
After that, the kids use their little watering-cans to water the plant.
Sow new plants together
In my opinion, this is the best part of gardening with kids: letting them sow their own baby plants.
We do this mostly outside on the garden table, but usually the mess is actually quite limited and you can do this inside as well. If it’s still early in the year and too cold for the baby seeds to be outside, we sow seeds in the kitchen. It’s the easiest place to clean in our house
Let your child put earth into the seed starter pot. If it’s dried earth, put it on a plate first and let your child add some water. Do warn your child to only add a little (and be prepared for flooding).
It turns out that little kid’s fingers are perfect for poking holes when planting seeds. Point out how deep the hole should be by point at the side of the pot, and use a description such as “just under the rim”. It’s easier to make the hole deeper if necessary, then to have to fill it up again and start over.
Have your child insert the seed and gently push earth over the hole.
Let them water the baby seed regularly, but make sure you keep an eye on it.
Watch your child’s excitement at checking the pots each morning and seeing his or her plants grow!
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