Teaching kids to garden is enormously rewarding. It is also a huge pain in the butt. Here’s how to ignite a passion for gardening (and why it is important) while actually enjoying the process.
There is something about growing an actual living thing from a teeny tiny seed that makes my heart sing. Feeling the earth in your hands. Planning, tilling, nurturing and reaping is the absolute most rewarding process to me. I covet my perennial flowers that I have grown from seed to blooms because they gift me with their return every year. They are beautiful with their towering colours that feed the bees and fill even the darkest corner with interest. But truth be told, I love growing food the most.
When Charlie was a little over a year old, she helped me plant her first garden. She mostly played with the dirt and rolled around in the sun, but it was something that we could share together. The next year, she picked out her own flowers and helped plant seeds in the veggie garden. She loved her plants. She watered them with her little tiny watering can. She squealed with joy when her carrot seeds made green. She was disappointed when she had to wait for those leaves to be anything she could eat. And then? Well then she started eating…. vegetables…. my 2 year old was eating rainbow chard right from the ground!
I found that if she was invested in what she was growing, she was also investing in eating it.
Last summer we turned a huge area of our yard into a vegetable patch. We grew everything I could think of growing. Just like the year before, Charlie got down in the dirt and helped me plant. This time she took on more responsibility by using her own trowel to dig in and create rows. Planting the seeds all on her own and giving them a good watering afterward. Just like magic, she ate everything we grew.
Coming into this summer with Charlie now four and Milly just 8 months, I’ve learned a few tips and tricks to keep myself from pulling my hair out and getting nothing planted on time.
Let them help.
This one is sometimes easier said than done but I mean really let them help. Take them shopping for seeds. Let them dig. Let them do as much as they are interested in doing and try to soften your grip on the “right” way.
Give them their own space.
If you are a little too A type to let them toss random seeds all over your garden, give them their own patch. Let them grow whatever they want to. Spinach beside marigolds? Sure! Sunflowers in the front row? Why not!
Be prepared for everything to take twice as long.
This goes for doing anything with children…. seriously.
Know that they are not in it for the long haul.
I could be in the garden all day but Charlie taps out after an hour or so. I also always need a second adult to care for Milly, she has no interest in watching me putter around. For some reason they just don’t find the same joy for pulling lambs quarters out of the tomato cages as I do. Go figure.
Be prepared for what’s to come.
They will ask to water the plants. Always. Over and over. Every time you’re outside.
Don’t waste it.
Use this opportunity to teach them about food. Teach them about where their food comes from and how it gets to their plate. Also, teach them about bees and how important they are to us. And about bugs and the amazing roles they play in our ecosystem. And about spiders and why they are so important to our gardens. Kids are so fascinated with learning about the chain of command. Plus, there is no better way to get a kiddo (or adult) over a fear of bugs or spiders than to teach them why those creepy crawlies are actually amazing.
So, go make some memories. Get your hands dirty. And grow some really good food.