Children are naturally very impressionable and often take up new hobbies or pick up new skills more quickly than adults. As a parent, it is your responsibility to make sure that you inspire your children in as many ways as possible, and encourage them to try new things on a regular basis. Gardening for children, for example, is a healthy hobby that they can learn to enjoy at a very young age, as well as benefit them throughout the rest of their lives.
In addition to being a healthy hobby, the activity itself provides children with a way to learn, become engaged and have fun while they’re at home or at school. In fact, according to some studies, children actually perform better in school if they are involved with gardening as an extracurricular activity. Furthermore, educating children about plants, vegetables and gardening in general also helps them obtain a better understanding of how the food they consume affects their health.
Let Them Taste Success
If there is one thing children have a much more difficult time dealing with than adults do, it’s the feeling of failure. As adults, overcoming failure or negativity becomes easier because we know that we can learn from our mistakes. However, for kids, it’s tough being in the losing chair. Gardening serves as a very rewarding activity for children for many reasons, including inspiration, patience and responsibility, and it’s always important for parents to provide their children with positive experiences.
Spark Their Interest
When it comes to learning new things, some kids may need a little push to get started. Start by introducing them to a variety of inspiring plants. Try starting with the more edible ones first. Depending on where you live, some quick and tasty edible plants include Swiss chard, lettuce, runner beans and courgettes. Sweet-tasting day lilies and peppery nasturtium are also some edible flowers that you might want to try as well!
However, if the way to your kids’ hearts isn’t through their stomachs, consider appealing to them visually. Some easy flowers to grow from seed include poppies, sunflower and marigold. If you’re near a national park or forest, take a field trip to show them bigger trees such as Oak or Sycamore.
Go another step further and try to appeal to every sense and introduce your kids to rattling poppy seedheads, smelly curry plant, chocolate cosmos (aka: Cosmos atrosanguineus), furry Stachys byzantina and lemon balm.
Whatever gets their attention; capture their interest by showing them a variety of plants, such as tactile leaves, brightly coloured flowers, scented plants, and tasty edible plants.
Give Them Some Space
Depending on the amount of space you have available for a garden in your yard, you can either reserve a huge 5’x5’ area or simply limit your kids to a few containers to start with. Keep in mind that it won’t take much space to keep them occupied!
If they are old enough, allow them to use paint and decorations to personalise their gardening space. Maybe paint an image of what is growing on a small sign or on the container itself. This will be a fun activity for both you and your children, and encourages them to explore their creative side.
Take Them on an Adventure
Many people will argue over the chicken and egg theory, but one thing is for certain: you need seeds to make a harvest. You can take them to the local garden centre and let them pick out exactly what they want to grow. Or you could start by showing children how to actually collect seeds from the plants themselves, as well as letting them sow them. Being involved right from the start will reinforce their understanding of the basic lifecycle of plants.
Give Them the Tools to Grow
While gardening is generally inexpensive, be sure to carefully consider the quality of the tools you’ll be giving your kids to use during family activities in the garden. While plastic trowels and shovels may be light in weight and easy for children to handle, they’re also more likely to break. The last thing you want is for one of your kids to get hurt because of a broken tool.
In general, smaller models of adult gardening tools can be found in most garden centres. Let your kids decorate these as well!
Let Them Do the Work
When have you ever met a kid that didn’t like to get their hands dirty? While it’s important to guide your kids’ gardening experience so they learn how to plant, sow, water and harvest what they grow, it’s equally as important to let them know what accomplishment feels like as a result of hard work, and they’ll probably be excited to garden again in the future!