Kids already love playing in the dirt, so why not do something useful with that and show them how to build and grow their own garden? Whether they grow fruits and vegetables or colorful flowers, it’s a fantastic learning opportunity for them.
Plus, gardening is much more fun when you do it with someone else.
Planting seeds and nurturing them into fully-grown plants teaches both science and life lessons, translating academic knowledge into real-world experiences. Children learn about life cycles, water conservation, botany, biology, long-term responsibility, following directions, and so much more. You can also encourage them to study and learn more about the aspects of gardening or specific plants they’re most interested in.
In addition, gardening can boost a child’s self-esteem, teach him the ability to cope with life’s ups and downs, and improve concentration. Through dealing with the inevitable setbacks in gardening (insects, weather, failed crops), children become more resilient. They’re forced to face problems and move forward without giving up on their goals.
Here are my top ten tips for teaching kids how to grow their own garden.
1. Get them interested. They should have some enthusiasm for gardening before you even start, or else the project won’t last. It’s not too hard to get kids interested, though – just show them what it’s all about. Read a book about how a seed grows into a plant with the help of sun and water. One of my children’s favorites was The Carrot Seed, by Ruth Krauss. With some kids (especially boys), you might want to play the gross angle – talk about how bugs and insects help or hurt a garden. Cater to your child’s inherent interests.
2. Get the right tools for the job. Tools that are too big or too small make jobs harder and less enjoyable. To keep your child from getting frustrated, buy gardening tools made for kids – gloves, apron, rake, shovel, watering can, etc. Often, they come in bright colors and bold patterns. You could even let your child pick out his own tools to get him more excited about it.
3. Start with things that are easy to grow. Let your child help decide, but steer him toward things that are easier for beginners to grow. A short harvest time also helps keep young children from losing interest. Here are some great suggestions for things to try with your new gardener:
4. Prune down to the basics. At the beginning, you don’t want to make your child do the big, heavy jobs, like tilling the soil and adding nutrients. You can do those steps without a young child, or with the help of an older one. These steps can be taught later, after he realizes how fun growing a garden is.
So begin by showing your children how to plant the seeds in the dirt. You can plant them in egg cartons first, or just put them directly in the ground. Egg cartons are great for smaller children, since they help keep the seeds in place. You can then put the whole carton in the ground and it will disintegrate, leaving the seeds to grow and thrive.
5. Learn about all of nature’s roles in your garden. Some wildlife is beneficial to your garden, but there are also some creatures you’d like to keep away. Help your child learn the difference between the two, and give them a biology lesson at the same time. Come up with ways to attract the helpful critters that pollinate your garden, and ways to deter the rest.
6. Show your children the magic of gardening. Nothing gets a child more excited than things that seem like magic, and gardening has plenty of that. For example, if you take the cutting of a begonia plant and replant it, another will grow. This will amaze him and make him want to try it with other plants as well.
7. Decorate. Get creative and use things from around the house to decorate the garden. Make your own pinwheels. Decorate planters for flowers and herbs. Make a bird feeder to go in your garden or a nearby tree. Paint rocks with the names of what you’re growing. The crafts don’t even have to stop when fall comes – try pressing leaves and flowers or drying gourds. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy, but brainstorming and implementing ideas with your child will make the garden his own.
8. Don’t forget to care for the garden. Once the seeds are planted, children need to know that the real work has only just begun. They need to learn the difference between what plants and weeds look like, so they can dispose of the latter while keeping the plants strong and healthy. Plenty of water and sunshine will also be important for the seedlings.
9. Don’t stop just because the season changes. Keep the garden alive all year long, even if that means moving it indoors for a while. If you have windows with plenty of sunlight, you can put the pots near them. Otherwise, try using special lights that replicate the light of the sun.
Or try your hand at sprouting. They’re quick to grow, taking just 4 to 5 days. The nutrition can’t be beat, and if your child grows them, he’s much more likely to eat them! And they’re “dirt cheap” to grow, especially when you consider the awesome nutritional value.
10. Use organic non-GMO seeds for the best nutritional value. When you’re making the effort to grow your own food, you may as well use the best seeds available, and that means using organic seeds… preferably from companies that don’t sell genetically modified seeds at all. Why line their pockets with gold?
11. Always be enthusiastic. Be willing to try new things with your child. If you’re unwilling to help them experiment with techniques or plants you’ve never heard of, they’ll lose their excitement about gardening. Before you know it, your little gardener will be a pro, and might even teach you a thing or two.
So get out there and start growing that garden with your kids. Remember to have fun! It’s not a chore, it’s a hobby. And you get to eat the results. Yum!
And speaking of plants, check out this award-winning elementary botany curriculum. Exploring Creation with Botany presents a scientifically sound and God-honoring study of botany for grades K-6. And the activities in the notebooking journal and junior notebooking journal provide everything your child needs to complete the assignments in Exploring Creation with Botany. Introduce your children to the miraculous world of plant life with this A+ curriculum.
I personally used Apologia’s science curricula for my own children, and we absolutely loved it. I cannot recommend it highly enough, so go check it out today!