Gardening is one of the top hobbies in the world and it’s easy to see why when one considers the many benefits. Not only are you creating a beautiful garden and helping nature, you also personally benefit – mentally, emotionally and physically. You can also grow food and either serve it in your own kitchen or sell it for some extra cash. With so many positives linked to this hobby, we thought it a good idea to get the kids involved.
The Benefits of Gardening with Kids
It’s a rare child that doesn’t enjoy playing outside in the dirt and amongst nature. Gardening is then a natural extension of the child’s already existing interest in nature and the outside world. Here are a few benefits of gardening with kids:
- Offers an opportunity to learn about the life cycle process, not only of plants but of the insects and animals that are attracted to the garden.
- Develops a sense of responsibility as well as caretaking, reasoning, creativity, patience, and independence.
- Creates environmental awareness from an early age.
- Can help smaller children develop their fine and gross motor skills.
- Successful gardening can build self-esteem.
- Imparts an important life-skill which is often overlooked, especially in school curriculums.
- Growing their own food can be extremely rewarding and encourages healthy eating.
- Being out in nature is emotionally and spiritually soothing.
How to Begin
A great starting point is to set aside a small patch of the garden for your child, a piece of land that belongs only to them. This already creates a sense of pride and excitement over having their very own mini garden. Another benefit of setting aside a small piece of garden is that they can decide what they would like to grow and experiment without affecting the other plants in the garden.
Your next step is to make sure the garden patch has suitable soil and is ideal for planting. You will also need to buy a set of child friendly garden tools, although not a must, it is safer in the long run and will allow your child to garden on their own without the worry that they may hurt themselves. It is also better for them to work with tools that are made for their size as working with big adult tools can be cumbersome and difficult. The next step would be to plan the garden with your child and then purchase the plants that they want to work with. Remember to keep it light, easy, and fun. A child’s garden is supposed to be a fun space to learn and create and adventure!
Creating a Sensory Garden
One of the best things to do with a garden is delight the child’s senses. Planting a garden full of bright colours, different textures, plants that attract insects and small animals, plants with beautiful scents, and of course edible plants. Children will delight in the exploration of the garden using all their senses. Here are a few suggestions:
Sight – Sunflowers, marigolds, chameleon plant, Swiss chard, snapdragons, allium, hyacinth, geranium, pansies, cosmos, daffodils.
Touch – Lamb’s ears, silver sage, Jerusalem sage, chenille, Mexican feather grass, verbascum, gomphrena, succulents (such as aloe), bottlebrush.
Smell – Wild spearmint, lavender, mint, butterfly bush, lemon balm, jasmine, sweet peas.
Sound – Here you can have plants that attract wildlife such as butterfly bush, honeysuckle and monarda or you can find plants that make interesting noises such as corn, bamboo and grasses.
Taste – Snap peas, radishes, cherry tomatoes, pumpkin, carrots, potatoes, strawberries, geranium, dill, thornless raspberry.
Age Appropriate Tasks
Each age will have different expectations and learning experiences, and will be able to handle certain tasks better than others. You want to encourage the child by creating successful situations. A toddler will not have the same skillset as a school going child and could become disinterested or frustrated if given tasks they are unable to do. As the adult, you will need to give certain tasks which they can successfully do on their own and help with any tasks that are beyond their current skill set. Younger children may be better at watering, harvesting and planting whilst older children will be able to do digging, carrying, pruning and mulching.
Gardening is a great hobby and encourages children to be outside and not stuck in front of the ever-threatening screens we are all warned about as parents. If you don’t have green thumbs, perhaps it’s even an opportunity for you to learn a few things as you encourage your children! Either way, it’s a win-win situation as the personal rewards which your child will reap are great, and they get to do their bit for planet at the same time.