Environmental studies, nutrition, and biology are just a few of the many ways to inspire young minds to the world around us during the gardening process. Besides, growing plants feels magical and spiritual. Gardening teaches patience, attentiveness, and caring. Scientists have found a bacteria in the soil which interacts with our bodies to release serotonin, a brain hormone that makes us feel happiness and fights depression. Gardening is healthy and fun, with the added bonus of getting children away from digital screens. What could be better?
Start by giving your child their own small patch of dirt. Make it close to where you garden, side by side is best. The plot should be easy to get to, sunny and have good soil. An old sandbox is an ideal raised bed option, as long as it is in a sunny area and can be converted easily. A good start is a flower box outside a prominent window where a child can see their plants through the entire growing process.
It is important to set your child up for success by giving them real tools, not plastic toys. Nothing is more frustrating than using an inadequate tool. Allowing children to use your tools can build trust and can be an opportunity to teach tool safety and maintenance. Many gardening centers now stock adequate children’s tools.
It is best to begin with seeds so children can be a participant in the complete growing process. It still seems a miracle to me when a sprout bursts from a dried bean. Besides learning the miracle of life, a child can learn the pride and satisfaction from adding healthy foods to family meals. Kids learn how healthy food tastes and smells. The flavor of a fresh picked tomato or snow pea never leaves you.
At first, you will need to step in and help keep plants watered, healthy and growing strong. However, as the child matures and grows more focused, tasks can be re- delegated. It is best to keep this a fun project, letting the child drive their own interest and motivation.
Make sure to avoid pesticides and manure in your gardens. Going organic is always encouraged as children are especially susceptible to harmful chemicals and microorganisms. Even some of the organic compounds can be dangerous, so make sure to be extra careful when adding anything to the soil or spraying for insects.
Some of the best starter plants for eating are carrots, radishes, lettuce, snow peas, cherry tomatoes, pumpkins, and potatoes. Sunflowers, nasturtiums, and marigolds are all great beginner flowers and are all edible. Strawberries are always fun to grow and can be very successful in a container as well as the ground.
Building great memories is one of the byproducts of getting outside with children. My fondest memories of my grandmother were in her flower garden, tending, pruning and arranging. It was a time when we could relax, talk and laugh.
So brag about your child’s garden to anyone who will listen and give lots of praise. Showing your excitement is the best way to motivate your child to continue enjoying their garden. And remember, have fun!