Image Credit: Photo by Filip Urban on Unsplash
Teaching your kids to enjoy gardening has many important benefits for their development and well-being. It’s an activity that broadens their knowledge and keeps them active. Gardening can be a sociable pastime as teamwork is often involved. And as they grow up, you can be confident their new hobby should have lifelong benefits. It can help them relax and adopt a healthy lifestyle in adulthood. But first, you have to engage their interest.
Gardening Encourages a Child’s Curiosity
Young children benefit from understanding different shapes, textures and colors. In the garden you can stimulate their interest in gardening simply by showing them leaves. Stachys byzantina or Lamb’s Ears is very easy to grow. It has silver-gray leaves that are as soft as velvet. Achillea millefolium or Yarrow has feathery foliage. It also has a very distinctive aroma for them to experience. The next step is to encourage them to grow something of their own.
Tools Designed for Small Children
All children love to copy what you are doing. But to help in the garden, they’ll need a set of miniature tools. You can easily find a kit containing items such as a trowel, fork and watering can. They’ll be specially designed for little hands to hold comfortably. They’ll also be lightweight and colorful with attractive decorations.
Allocate a Patch of Ground for Your Child’s Garden
All children are usually thrilled to be given a small garden of their own. Let them help choose a place but be sure to guide them to the most suitable patch. It needs to be in a sheltered, sunny area. Try to make sure it’s near the house so they can still see it from the window when they’re indoors. You can do some preparation without them knowing by loosening weeds and soil the day before. Then when you help your child to clear the space, gardening will seem easy. Look for some large stones to create a well-defined edge.
Plants that are Easy for Children to Grow
Children are fascinated by the magic of growing a plant from a tiny seed. But you do need fast results to keep them interested. Try nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) which has lovely, bright flowers. Californian poppy (Eschscholzia) will flower from seed in just a few weeks. Sunflowers are perfect for friendly competition between your kids to see who can grow the tallest plant. You can even share the fun of visiting a local store to purchase seedlings of colorful annuals. Livingstone daisies (Cleretum bellidiforme) can have a magical appearance as the pretty flowers only open when they are in the sun.
Your Child can Grow Plants to Eat
Growing plants to eat adds an interesting dimension to gardening. It also helps you teach your kids about eating healthy vegetables and fruit. Radishes and carrots grow quickly. Runner beans (Phaseolus coccineus) grow amazingly quick and are fun to twist round a hooped frame. Avoid using sticks as they are often difficult to see and the sharp ends can cause serious injuries to the face. An exotic plant such as dragon fruit is sure to attract your kids’ attention. It usually germinates in around fourteen days. It’s also very easy to grow in a large pot which you can bring indoors in the winter.
Children can Grow Plants Indoors
To keep your children interested in gardening all year round, grow indoor plants. Lettuce may need a special plant light to help it grow properly. Mustard and cress is also incredibly quick when placed on a sunny windowsill. But one crop that likes a dull position is the Portobello mushroom. These beautiful fungi are quick and easy to grow indoors. They like a damp environment which you can provide by using a polythene cover. When your kids harvest them, they’ll discover mushrooms can make a delicious meal.
Gardening Helps Your Kids Appreciate Nature
Being in the garden, your children are going to encounter many creatures. You can teach them that not all bugs are pests. Earwigs eat the eggs of slugs and like to live in little colonies beneath rocks. Bright red ladybugs with black spots love to dine on the green aphids that live on fresh green leaves. There’ll also be spiders, butterflies and moths. Encourage the local songbirds to visit your garden. Your kids can help you put bird feeders filled with seed in a tree or bush. Help your kids plant bushes that produce berries in the Fall that birds love to eat.
Encourage Your Kids to be Creative through Gardening
Arranging plants is a creative hobby in itself. But there are activity packs for kids such as painting an ornamental animal or toadstool they can place in their patch. They can also make a miniature scarecrow or decorate a nameplate for their garden. Flowers and leaves your children have grown can be used for artistic projects. They can make pictures from the dried, pressed petals during the winter.
Image Credit: Photo by Anna Earl on Unsplash
When you involve your children in gardening, their lives will be enriched. They’ll learn how plants grow. They’ll grow up to appreciate the natural world and the creatures that inhabit every garden. Nurturing edible plants provides additional interest and encourages a healthy diet. Gardening is a beneficial pastime for children of all ages. Make it seem easy with plants that are quick to grow. You’ll need to supervise them in the early days to maintain their interest, but gardening gives you the opportunity to share quality time with your kids.
Leslie Vincent is our Gardening expert at Atkins. Atkins is one of Ireland’s biggest garden centres advising gardening enthusiasts and professional landscapers on all their gardening needs.