By Dawna Matthews
Spring has arrived, and with it are days outside and digging in the earth. In early November, my daughter Chloé helped plant our tulip bulbs for the spring. They began blooming two weeks ago. Every day she is so excited to look out the window, see the new flowers and say good morning to them.
As soon as the tulips began to appear, we started planning which vegetable, herb, and wild flower gardens we wanted to plant. It’s not always easy to interest our children in the activities we enjoy, but gardening is something beautiful and simple to bring your family closer together while enjoying the outdoors. Gardening not only gives children a greater appreciation for nature but it also teaches nutrition, biology, math and history. It broadens their awareness of the world as well. Your children will be interested in gardening if you invite them to participate and show them the wonders to be discovered.
Here are some ways to get kids of all ages interested in gardening:
Let kids choose what to plant – Kids feel empowered when they are able to make decisions. Offer guidance and make sure there are some successful, thriving plants (like sunflowers or carrots) among their selection. But listen to their ideas, and let them play and experiment.
Don’t expect perfection - This is the time to get dirty and messy, to connect with the earth and feel the dirt between your fingers. Don’t worry about the end result or how neat it looks.
Give them a task or invite them to be your helper – Kids love to feel special, and when you give them something to be in charge of, they feel you trust them. It can be something simple like watering or dropping seeds into holes you have dug together. Mix up the tasks to keep it interesting. Give them kid-size tools like trowels or watering cans so they feel “grown up.”
Get creative – Allow them to create their own plant markers or garden ornaments. They can paint on stones or popsicle sticks and stick them next to the plant. Other ideas are to plant gardens with a theme such as a rainbow, where you plant items of one color in different sections so that, when they bloom, they turn into a rainbow of various colors. Another theme is a pizza garden: plant tomatoes, basil, garlic and oregano. Children will love planning meal when they harvest the fruits.
Gardening is cool and fun, so invite your kids to play and discover this, too! Start slowly and give your children lots of encouragement. Once you share your enthusiasm and passion for gardening, your flowers and vegetables are not the only things that will blossom.