One of the greatest joys in my farming/homesteading journey has been gardening with children. It so wonderful to watch their wonder as they learn and grow out in the garden. Of course gardening with children has its challenges. But with the right attitude and the right expectaions it can be an enjoyable experience for everyone.
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A few common Pitfalls
There are a few things that are likely to go wrong when children are in the garden. One of the main ones in my experience with very young children has been my plants getting trampled! Another one is children getting tired and whiny. In order to avoid these pitfalls and more I have a few tips below to make gardening with children a pleasant and memory making opportunity!
Tip Number one: The right time
Make sure to work in the garden together at the right time of day. This will include things like being sure your child is not hungry or tired and that the weather isn’t excessively hot or cold. I the spring this means going out in the afternoon when it is sunny and in the summer in the morning before it gets too hot.
Tip Number two: Let them truly help
Let children help with age appropriate tasks, but don’t expect too much. Children love to help and feel productive. Teach them about the plants and help them know where to walk.
Some tasks that my children especially enjoy when they are little(2-4 yrs) are planting larger seeds like beans and squash, planting garlic or onions, and picking tomatos, radishes, and peas.
As they get a bit older(5-8yrs) they can plant smaller seeds, spread mulch around, and weed around plants.
Depending on how strong they are older children can help with almost every task in the garden! For my boys that are 8 and 11 I also pay them for extra big jobs like spreading lots of manure or mulch or digging up areas. They appreciate the opportunity to earn a little money!
Tip Number 3: Make it Fun
There are many ways to make gardening fun! When just starting out be sure to plant some quick and easy vegetables. Then you and your children will reap the fruits and feel rewarded sooner rather than later. Some of our favorite child friendly crops include:
- radishes- ready in only 21 days!
- snap peas- so fun to pick and eat
- lettuce and greens- fast growing, when my oldest was young he knew each type by sight
- lemon cucumbers- cute little yellow cukes
- cherry tomatoes- bright and snackable
- edible flowers- nasturtium and bachelor’s buttons are two easy ones
Another way to make gardeing fun for kids is to give them their own little patch to plant whatever they want! Last year my oldest planted gourds and giant kale in his, my second child planted corn and cukes, my daughter planted all flowers, and my toddler just dug in the dirt.
This is one of my favorite books to inspire children to have fun in the garden:
Tip number four: Plan for a Mess
Gardening is messy- especially with little ones. So be prepared for everyone to get quite dirty and plan accordingly. Have everyone dressed in clothes that don’t matter if they get dirty and even stained. Some days my children were so messy when done gardening that I had them take off muddy clothes at the back door and get right in the bath or shower. An outdoor shower would be amazing for this-maybe someday!
Tip Number Five: Be Patient
Be patient with both yourself and your children. Gardening with children-especially young children will most likely slow you down. But it is worth it!
I hope this will inspire you to get out and garden with your children! Start small and have fun! Let me know what you think in the comments below.