Having four small children presents a unique set of challenges. Number one being how to accomplish tasks around the house and in the garden. After trying a number of different ways to distract my kiddos, I realized that the best thing for all parties was to include them.
Yes, it’s challenging at first, but the long-term rewards include the ability to get things done when needed (and with help), and kids who are confident in their ability to do things themselves.
Given that it’s that time of year, I thought I’d share some of my favorite tips for gardening with kids:
1. Give them jobs
A friend pointed out recently that when her kids get whiny and start causing trouble, what they really need is a job. I’ve found the same is true for my kids, especially if I’m working outside and they decide to start throwing dirt at each other.
There are a number of jobs kids can be given in the garden, from weeding or planting, to killing potato bugs and spreading mulch.
I’ve found that I need to explain the job, show them how to do it, supervise it for a bit, then let them at it. (With realistic expectations based on their age and abilities, of course.)
2. Give them their own space
If you have enough garden space, I suggest setting a little bit aside for your kids to plant whatever they want. Even if it’s in a small pot or one strip along the side of the fence, it’s empowering for kids to plant seeds as they see fit.
It’s fun for them (and you) to see what comes up as the season progresses and talk about why they chose to plant what they did and if they’d make any changes the next year.
3. Encourage team work
This year as we transplanted some veggies, I had a great time watching my kids work together without my direction. After trying to do things on their own, they decided to band together and create a planting process.
The younger kids were in charge of scooping compost, while the older kids dug holes and gently planted the peppers and tomatoes. I can assure you this doesn’t ordinarily happen, so I watched and thanked them for their excellent team work.
4. Involve them in the whole process
Kids can do much more than just pull weeds and plant the occasional vegetable. At the beginning of the year, I ask them what they want to grow in the garden. By spring time they usually have lots of ideas.
My kids also love coming with me to pick out seeds and plants and help plant whatever we get. As you can imagine, they’re also very enthusiastic waterers and when it’s time to harvest, they’re just as excited as I am to pick whatever is ripe.
5. Kid-sized tools
They also get the opportunity to be responsible with their tools and make sure they don’t get lost or ruined.
6. Talk about ways to use the harvest
When we pick the veggies, I like to ask my kids what they think we should do with them and they’re quick to reply. While pizza is the number one suggestion, they usually have other ideas for how to use our bounty, including sharing the excess with friends.
There are countless opportunities to teach kids in the garden. We home school our kids and use the garden as a means to teach about plant identification, nutrition, sustainability, herbal remedies and so on.
Even if you don’t home school your kids, there are many valuable lessons to be learned in the garden that they won’t get a chance to learn elsewhere.
What tips can you share for gardening with kids?