How Does Your Garden Grow? By Shari B.

What kid doesn’t love the opportunity to dig in the dirt and see the positive outcome of his or her hard work? The benefits of gardening with your children are numerous – spending some quiet time together, being outside in the fresh air, teaching them about healthy eating and where their food comes from, and the idea that “good things come to those who wait.” I’m sure there are many other reasons; feel free to leave a comment below with your thoughts!

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In my opinion, I don’t think there’s an age that’s too young for kids to get involved in gardening.  Obviously it’s important to consider the age of the child and safety concerns, but my son (1.5 years old) loves to come inside the garden with us even if he’s not doing anything but watching us work.  My daughter’s interest in actually planting things first piqued last spring (as a 3 year old) when we did an experiment with beans to see how they sprout and eventually grow into plants.

We let her pick dried beans from our pantry and then put them in plastic baggies with wet paper towels and left them hanging from a sunny window in our kitchen.  We guessed which beans would sprout first, and watched as most of them grew roots and small shoots.  When they outgrew their baggies, we put the seedlings in small cups that we left on the windowsill until they got large enough to move outside.  She helped us transplant them into the garden and we enjoyed seeing them grow into large plants over the course of the summer.   It was a joy to watch her learn from the experience and a treat to taste the “fruits” of our labor.

 

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This year, my now 4-year-old daughter is fascinated by our garden and wants to be intimately involved in helping us both plan it and plant it.   She desperately wants to grow her own carrots, even though we tried, unsuccessfully, to do so last year.   She has been enjoying helping my husband make our raised garden beds taller and expand our fenced-in garden area (to help keep “critters” out).

My in-laws recently sent us several raspberry bushes because our daughter had so much fun picking the berries off their plants last summer.  She couldn’t wait to get the plants in the ground here; she helped dig the holes, fill in the soil and had a lot of fun watering.

My in-laws also sent some great kid-sized garden tools which she’s been enjoying quite a bit.  Both of my kids and their friends even “helped out” by digging in the soil last week.  They had fun pretending they were all farmers.

 

Looking for ways to spark your child’s interest in gardening?  We love picture books in our house and I’m always trying to find books that go along with the activities we do to round out the experience.  We’ve read some great books about beans, flowers, and gardening which I hope you’ll enjoy as well:

- From the Garden: A Counting Book About Growing Food by Michael Dahl

- One Bean by Anne Rockwell

- Counting in the Garden by Emily Hruby

- And Then It’s Spring by Julie Fogliano

- Zinnia’s Flower Garden by Monica Wellington

 

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Last but not least, here are a few other fun suggestions to get you started or to give your garden a unique kid-friendly spin:

- Meaningful Mama shows you how to make DIY Garden Markers

- Use your water table to create this Gardening Play Table from The Boy and Me

- Check out this guide to the Best Vegetables to Grow with Kids from The Educator’s Spin on It

- I want to buy this Rootvue Farm Garden Laboratory Kit so we can see what happens underground!

- A Toddler Snacking Garden is a great first step for gardening with your kids