Gardening Adventures With Kids

February 12th, 2013 posted by Brenda Hyde

I remember the first packet of seeds my sons chose to buy at the garden center, as well as their excitement, their impatience and then their amazement as “their” flowers began to bloom. I’ve been gardening with my kids since they were toddlers and I’ve seen them develop an interest in learning about nature, a respect for living things and an understanding about the world around them. All this from gardening? Well, yes and no. The gardening helped them to see how nature works, and it helped them to appreciate the flowers and plants. We also combined this with lessons on bugs, birds, and other wildlife. You can open their minds to the possibility that all is not what it seems and there is wonder in their own backyard!

PLAYING IN THE DIRT!

Gardening with your children shouldn’t be a chore, but instead an adventure with a little learning snuck in for good measure. When we bought our first house my boys were toddlers and the backyard was a mess. The previous owner had “started” a rock garden, but let the entire yard go wild. There was no grass to speak of, but there were plenty of rocks, gravel and weeds. I had waited far too long to have my own garden let this stop us. The boys were, of course, happy with the rocks. Everything I read advised me there were three enemies of the backyard garden: cats, dogs and kids. I refused to believe that! One day I put on my jersey gloves, shorts and an old shirt and I started moving rocks, pulling weeds and digging. My boys were right there with me every step of the way. I saw the wonder in their faces as our lot started looking like a real yard. This is the first step in successful gardening with kids-Involve them in EVERY step of the process! Let them help dig the dirt, pick out stones, add compost and get that soil ready. I found that the boys didn’t disturb our gardening areas-because they had helped me create the beds, they wanted to keep them nice! //

LEARNING AS YOU GO

We looked up every new weed, plant or flower up in books. I involved the boys in everything I was doing, even if it was just talking to them. We discovered slugs, spiders and beetles, which we also looked up information on. From the beginning I taught them which things were “friends of the garden” and when we found some that weren’t such as the slugs, I explained that to them too and how we could stop them from harming our plants. They helped me set aside interesting rocks that we could use in our landscape, and we observed which bugs like to hide, and which ones were in the open.

WHICH PLANTS?

Children can be very creative when gardening, but not very patient! When you are selecting plants or seeds for their corner of the yard or garden be sure to offer a little of everything. Our first year gardening I allowed the boys to choose their own plants. We ended up with both Marigold and Moonflower seeds. Though the germination was fairly quick, waiting for the blooms simply took too long for the kids. We’ve learned a lot since that first year, and now we choose bedding plants from the garden center such as Petunias, Snap Dragons and Dusty Miller. They are easy to take care of and can be used in the ground or in containers. Kids love the foliage of plants like Dusty Miller or Lamb’s Ears. We still grow plants from seeds, such as Calendula, Nasturtiums, Basil and Sunflowers. You’ll notice that all of those seeds germinate quickly-about 7-10 days- and the blooms of the flowers are brilliant colors, which kids love. We include herbs like Basil or Dill because I find the kids like the different leaves and the fact that we can use the plants. They provide a nice contrast with the flowers also.

WHERE TO PLANT

Don’t be discouraged if you are limited on space. Yes, it’s a perfect situation if you can provide a small plot for the kid’s to plant and take care of, but small pots arranged on a sunny porch or deck provide a learning experience and a fun filled summer too. Let your children be involved in every step of the growing process. Show them how to water, weed and thin the plants, as well as how to deadhead after they bloom and collect seeds in the fall. It’s not just about growing pretty flowers, but it’s an adventure in caring and nurturing their garden.

KEEPING THEIR INTEREST

You’ve dug your soil, planted your seeds and now the waiting begins. This is the biggest hurdle-kids will lose interest if that’s all there is to it. But I’ve found many ideas for activities and projects while waiting for harvest time!

Garden Diaries

– have your kids keep notebooks with the information on what they planted, how to care for the herbs or flowers, and encourage them to measure the seedlings as they grow and make their own observations as they water and care for them.

Garden Art

– kids love to craft and decorate! They can make their own border around their garden with stones, bricks or unusual items such as chipped plates that are put into the ground halfway along the front of the flower bed. They can make little fairy houses out of twigs and other natural material to put inbetween the flowers. Using a low temp glue gun they can glue a house together, or you can provide an unfinished bird house that they can decorate. Broken clay pots can be decorated and turned upside down to use as toad houses. Stones can be washed and painted with the name of their plants and decorated, then coated with polyurethane to protect them from weather. Garden themed food is SO much fun! For an extra special lunch buy flowered plates, cups and napkins. Or take edible markers and let the kids decorate their own while your fixing the food! Below are some fun recipes to serve for your garden lunch.

BLOOMING VEGGIES

Place a mound of vegetable dip in the middle of a small plate. Provide a platter of different raw vegetables that you’ve cut into petal like shapes. They can make flowers-eat them and start over!

Daisy Salads

6 hardcooked eggs 12 lettuce leaves 1/2 cup mayonnaise 1 tsp. mustard Cut the whites of the eggs into rings and mix the egg yolks with the mayonnaise and mustard. On a platter arrange the lettuce leaves to form a cup, then place the egg whites to form “petals” of a daisy. Place the yolk mixture in the middle. You can also use parsley or dill sprigs as the leaves of the daisy. You can double the recipe and make 2 depending on how many people you are serving. After everyone see the daisy, then they can take rings of egg white and place some yolk in the middle of a ring to eat them together-with a fork, of course.

Carrot Fun

Most kids love raw carrots! Grow them if you have room-there is nothing like a fresh from the garden carrot. Many of the mini varieties can be grown in containers. While you wait for your carrots to grow, or even if you didn’t plant any, buy a bunch of fresh carrots with the tops on from the store. Rinse and place one carrot at each child’s place setting. They can pretend they are rabbits and nibble at their carrot-they can even try the leaves to see what they taste like.

More flower nibbles

Provide the kids with 3 or 4 different flower shaped cookies cutters, bread, hard cheese (like cheddar), baby carrots that have been sliced to use as the middle of the flower, celery or green pepper that has been cut into strips for stems, dill or parsley leaves for foliage, and ranch dip. Have the kids cut out a piece of bread and cheese with the cookie cutter. Spread the bread with dip, press on the cheese gently, then decorate the flower on their plate. Eat the flower, and make more! Spring and summer are an amazing time of discovery for children, and gardening with them will teach them lessons that will never be forgotten!

Brenda Hyde (51 Posts)


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Cindy Rowe
Cindy Rowe (7 Posts)

Cindy Rowe is the owner/editor of Crazylou Creations blog. On the blog, you will find a little bit of crazy, and a whole lot of fun! As a FT working mother, she still finds time to create crafts, play around in the kitchen, plan parties and exercise. You'll find all of this and more on her blog!


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