Gardening can be a great activity to teach kids about the world around them. It’s been a few years since we’ve had a full-fledged garden, and despite the fact that I am way too pregnant to do much of the work myself, I was determined that this year we were going to do some planting.
My boys are almost 9, 6, and 4 and they are old enough that they can do most of the work with a bit of supervision. We started gearing up for our garden by learning about composting with our soda bottle compost project. It was a huge hit and now, a few weeks later, we’re ready to move into planting our seeds.
Keep Things Simple
The goal of our gardening project this year is to just cover the basics (and hopefully get a few edible things out of the process). We’re not worried about getting bogged down with details at this point.
We’re focusing on only a few vegetable varieties so we can maximize our chance for success. Easy to grow vegetables like cucumbers, zucchinis, and tomatoes are a great place to start.
Take Short Cuts
In the effort of time (and energy since there’s a significant lack of that going on around here lately), we bought a Jiffy Mini Greenhouse to plant our seeds into. This saved us from having to fill pots with soil and dealing with the mess that comes along with that, and we were able to get all our seeds planted in under 20 minutes so no one lost interest.
We wanted to start our seeds indoors, partially because the weather can’t decide what it’s doing around here at the moment and partially so my kids could keep a close on eye on any changes as they happen. The Jiffy Greenhouse gave us an easy solution and kept everything contained.
If you want to reuse items you already have, you can plant seeds in eggshells (like we did in this preschool science project about how seeds grow) or empty produce containers as well.
Use Kid-Friendly Gardening Tools
Everything seems to go smoother when you give kids tools to work with that are just their size, whether you are working in the kitchen or the garden. Most hardware stores sell kid-sized gardening tools or you can make your own using things around the house like they suggest in the book, Green Thumbs.
I’ve found that giving kids their own tools is also a great way to teach responsibility because they have to be sure and clean them off and bring them inside so they don’t get lost or rust. For younger kids, this is a huge lesson to learn and there’s no faster way to learn it than having a favorite object get damaged when they don’t take responsibility for it.
Give Kids Ownership
I firmly believe that giving kids ownership over their projects helps them to feel more invested and ultimately helps them learn more in the process. If you have older kids, give them responsibility over a specific task or plot of land in your garden. The success or failure of the garden then directly relies on them and kids love seeing progress when they know they’ve made it happen.
My 6 year old has been assigned the job of watering the plants and he takes it very seriously. I try and avoid reminding my kids to do things as much as possible because I want them to step up and take charge on their own.
My 8 year old will have his own small grow box to plant whatever seeds he likes and he’ll be responsible for the full upkeep. Since it’s a small area, that’s very doable for him at his age and he’ll be able to understand the full process from start to finish. I’m hoping it will get him to eat more vegetables as he sees them grow as well.
Explore your Local Library
With any project we work on, I love to expand on what we learn by taking a trip to our library. My kids love getting baskets full of books on the subject we are studying and they discover all kinds of facts that I wouldn’t have known to teach them on my own. With gardening fresh on our minds, we’re going to be stocking up on books about plants, flowers, photosynthesis, and more to dig through as we wait for our veggies to grow.
Green Thumbs is a book I’ve heard great things about, but unfortunately isn’t stocked by my library so it’s on our wish list of things to buy.
What are your best tips for gardening with kids?