Gardening With Young Children – 5 Ways to Make it Work
The sun is shining, the birds are singing in the trees, and me and my children are digging and gently putting seeds in the ground...
I guess I must have had some kind of idealistic vision like that when I vowed the year that my first son was born that I would be growing the majority of our produce at home in our garden. I think I got about 3 salads out of the deal that first year. Four growing seasons later, I’m still at it.
Gardening with my kids is one of my favorite things to do, but it’s not easy. Usually it goes a little more like this:
I’m sweating and grunting trying to work soil amendments into our clay soil while my children are rolling in the mud or eating it. And it’s overcast, or there’s a slight drizzle.
While I can’t do anything about the Puget Sound drizzle, I have learned some ways to make the process of trying to grow our own food with the little ones around more manageable.
1. Involve your kids in the garden.
There is so much that you can teach your kids about the world by growing food together. They get to see the whole process of plant growth from seed to compost. There is so much to learn just from observation. I see growing and gathering our own food as a central aspect of our homeschooling strategy.
You can incorporate songs, poems and stories into gardening too. We do a lot of Waldorf inspired things at home which involves a lot of poetry and songs, so we say seed blessings when we plant our seeds. It’s also fun to make up stories about critters that live in the garden. You can count rows and seeds together, practice reading what’s on the seed packets, write garden labels together…
2. Bring snacks, water, towels, and toys with you.
It took me a surprisingly long time to figure this one out. When you bring out the things you and your kids will need ahead of time, you don't have to run in and out of the house a million times and get distracted from what you’re trying to do in the garden. A garden tote is actually really great for this purpose (not to mention when it’s time to harvest and you have loads of beets to bring in). A big basket or a shopping bag works fine too.
3. Invest in tiny sized gardening tools.
Having child sized tools allows your little ones to do it too. There are all manner of tools out there on the market from plastic ones to perfect replicas of adult tools. I like the ones that work as effective (or semi-effective anyway) gardening tools so the kids can dig, hoe and rake along with me. My four-year-old (Chobie) loves this kind of play, um…work.
4. Set up a kid bed.
At first I went crazy trying to get my, then, toddler to dig in the right place in the garden bed. Then I realized that I needed to plan space into the garden for him to dig and drive his dump truck in and what not. Between his muddy little kid spot and the work that he does to help me, he’s pretty occupied while I work.
5. Grow some kid friendly veggies.
Choose veggies that your kids like. Sugar snap peas are a favorite at my house, but you can also try things like spinach, radishes, and cherry tomatoes. These kinds of plants that can be picked, cleaned and eaten right in the garden are really satisfying for little hands to pick and munch while you’re weeding nearby.
Seeds that come up fast, like peas, are exciting to do with little kids because they get to see the results of their (or your) hard work sooner. It’s fun to go out to the garden each day after planting to see if the sprouts are up yet.
Growing food with your kids, even if it’s just a little bit, is worth the effort, you’ll:
· get food that is fresher (thus more nutritious) than what you buy at the store
· know everywhere that those vegetables have been and exactly what’s on them
· teach your kids important life skills
· enjoy a relaxing hobby, if your kids cooperate.
Do you garden with your kids? What are your favorite things to grow?
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