While staying home, teach your kids to garden
By Mandy Carter
Kids are curious, they learn best by doing and love to play
in the dirt. They will not only learn new skills while making sure that the
plants get enough fertilizer, water and sun but they will develop a sense of
mindfulness. Concepts learned while gardening, like composting food scraps for
fertilizer or using gathered rainwater, can show kids a deep respect and
responsibility for taking care of our planet.
And in the age of electronics, kids need meaningful family
connections. Planning a garden, planting the seeds and watching them grow give
kids a sense of purpose and responsibility while teaching team building and
promoting communication skills. Furthermore, a number of studies show that when
children have contact with soil during activities like digging and planting, they
have improved moods, better learning experiences and decreased anxiety. Most
important, the self-esteem and excitement a child feels from eating a vegetable
or gifting a flower that he grew himself is priceless.
Set them up for success with these tips!
Give them serious tools. Do not give your kids cheap plastic
child’s gardening tools. These are worse than having no tools at all because
they will break and create frustration. Find good work gloves that fit a small
hand. With some garden tools, like a hoe or spade, you can easily saw the
handle shorter. Consider even letting them use your tools to show the
importance of the work they’re doing.
Start from seeds. While it’s a convenient shortcut with
starter kits, children will learn best by seeing the growing process from
beginning, the seed. The care given to sprouting seeds and nurturing the young
seedling are a valuable part of the gardening experience.
Cheat a little. Depending on the age of the child, you may
need to help out a little ‘behind the scene’. Not every garden task is pleasant
or fun, and the child may not be ready at all times for all the necessary
tasks. You may need to go out in the evening to pick a few slugs off the
lettuce, or be the one to run out and move the sprinkler.
Show off their work. Give a ‘garden tours’ to visitors. Take
photos of their progress and send it to their grandparents. The attention you
give to their work is a big motivator for them to stay involved with the entire
What to plant
Here are five crops perfect for a child’s garden— relatively easy to grow, have short growing seasons and are fun to harvest.
Growing season is 50-75 days. Plant in full sun and use seedlings rather than planting from seed. Put in a 2′ stake alongside each seedling; they need to be tied loosely to stakes as they get taller. Add lots of compost. Water at ground level, trying to keep leaves dry. Can also be grown in containers.
The seeds will germinate in 7-10 days; growing season is 40-50 days. A quick and reliable crop to give the child fast results, and also a good way to interest kids in salads. Lettuce likes part shade; keep soil moist especially during the first two weeks. You can grow ‘head’ (space 8″ apart) or ‘leaf’ (space 4″ apart) varieties; the leaf varieties will mature sooner, about 30-35 days.
Known as a ‘never-fail’ crop. You can plant red or white varieties but red will mature faster. Cut seed potatoes into chunks with at least 2 ‘eyes’ per. Plant in furrows, about 12-15″ apart, with eyes pointing upward. Mound soil up around plant as it grows; harvest when plant collapses.
A quick-growing crop, and fun for kids to eat right off the vine. They take about 10 days to germinate and mature in about 60 days. Peas prefer cool, shady locations. They should be planted about 1″ apart at most. Snow peas are popular because the pod is edible.
A must for a child’s garden. They will sprout in 1 week, become a small seedling in 2 weeks, and should be 2′ tall in a month. In about 8 weeks, they will begin revealing hundreds of seed kernels. They will dry naturally in the late summer sun; the seeds, rich in protein and iron, can be roasted for snacks that kids can enjoy.
Mandy Carter is a mother of two. She owns her own freelance marketing business, is a travel writer, speaker and mommy blogger who loves to share her passion for family travel. Follow her family adventures at acupful.com and connect with her on Instagram @mandymcarter