Gardening with children is immensely educational and rewarding

Gardening and Kids go Hand and Hand

Teaching children gardening provides a wonderful hands on education on so many levels. We hear from many adults whose fondest memories are gardening—or related to gardening in some way—with their parents, grandparents, relatives or neighbors.

Sherri shared this on our Facebook Page, and gave us permission to share it:
“I grew up my entire life with a backyard garden that my parents started. My siblings and myself always were out working in the soil. It got to where the neighbor kids would come over to watch stuff grow or to help. If one of my friends helped—pulling weeds or such—my parents would give them veggies to take home. I now do the same with my garden. Anyone in my neighborhood that’s interested and helps, reaps some of the harvest. Amazing to see now, neighbors with window box veggies growing. I love watching things grow! Pure bliss when I’m working in the dirt.” Sherri E. Norman, Gardens All Facebook Page. 1)https://www.facebook.com/gardensall/

THE NEIGHBORHOOD KIDS WOULD COME OVER TO WATCH STUFF GROW, OR TO HELP.

We love hearing these stories from folks of their fond memories of gardening as children with parents, grandparents or neighbors.

Planting More Than Seeds

Sherri’s family gardening tradition beautified more than her family’s yard and fed more than their tummies. For Sherri, it nourished her soul and cultivated a lifelong tradition of nurturing plants and people through gardening.

Recipe for Success

Dirt, spade, rake, kids, seeds, water…

Most little kids love digging around in the dirt, holding lady bugs and finding earthworms and roly-poly’s. Including children in gardening fosters a well-earned sense of being a part of something important to the family, and cultivates a sense of self worth only found from effort and contribution.

INTRODUCING CHILDREN TO GARDENING EARLY ON, PROVIDES PRICELESS EXPERIENCES AND INVALUABLE EDUCATION.

Toolkits for young gardeners available on Amazon: Boys and Girls

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A popular organization creating fantastic educational gardening curriculum and kids gardening programs is KidsGardening.org.2)http://www.kidsgardening.org/garden-activities-start-early-and-end-late-to-beat-the-heat/ When it comes to getting kids involved in the garden, they have a wealth of information.

Here are two of our favorite tips from their site, especially for summer.

Gardening with Kids Tips

  1. Have kids look for and destroy squash bugs and their eggs, tomato horn worms, Japanese beetles and slugs.
  2. Let the kids water the plants. Kids enjoy watering the garden, and yes, they’ll be drinking from the hose… and end up as wet—or wetter—than the plants before they’re done, but that’s part of the fun, and it helps them develop a fond relationship with the garden while growing memories that last.3)http://www.kidsgardening.org/garden-activities-start-early-and-end-late-to-beat-the-heat/

Each of just these two simple things can be turned into entire gardening curriculums, and we touch on that next.

Lessons from the Garden

Children can be included in each process of planning the garden. You can start by discussing as a family what to grow. Make this fun by making a list of everyone’s favorite vegetables. Kids will usually immediately jump into naming theirs.

Once you have a list, write next to each item, how tall it will grow and how much space it needs. We won’t go into a lot of detail here. We’ve written about garden planning in other articles, but the bottom line, at each stage, consider what the children can do to participate and assign them that.

If for instance, you create a garden sketch on graph paper, they can color in the veggies. For the older children, they can help with the garden app, if you choose to use that (our favorite tool).

When it’s time to order seeds, you can do that together as well. When the package arrives, letting them open it adds fun for them. They can lay out the packets in the order they’ll be planted, according to the garden plan, then market on the calendar what gets planted when. Next they can write on the seed packets the dates to plant and organize them in that way.

There are so many ways to include children in gardening. We all learn best through hands on experiences. You know… learning from life and doing real things. That’s the best learning, and those are the lessons we all remember most, and in those lessons wonderful memories are also planted.

Whether you homeschool, or just want to provide hands-on learning and growth for your kids, it’s easy to create entire curriculums around gardening. In fact many have and there are online resources that can help you do just that.4)http://growing-minds.org/lesson-plans-landing-page/

BOOK: Gardening Projects for Kids by Jenny Hardy

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Or, you can create your own. Here’s a list to jumpstart yours:

Gardening Teaches

  • Measuring, Proportion, Perspective
  • Mapping, charting, working with graph paper
  • Organizing, planning, logical thinking
  • Math, counting and calculating
  • Spelling / latin vocabulary good for root language understanding
  • Types of vegetables
  • Nutrition in vegetables
  • Medicinal benefits of herbs5)https://gardensall.com/best-herbs-for-colds-and-flu/
  • Which nutrients are good for what
  • Nurturing / thinking outside of self
  • Awareness of ecosystems of the natural world
  • Patience / delaying gratification / the joy of harvesting
  • All about composting and cycles of life
  • How to harvest and prepare foods / cooking
  • How to can and preserve
  • How to dry herbs
  • How to make salves, teas, soaps, candles, etc. from your herb and flower gardens

BOOK on Amazon: Square Foot Gardening with Kids: Learn Together: – Gardening Basics – Science and Math – Water Conservation – Self-sufficiency – Healthy Eating (All New Square Foot Gardening) by Mel BartholomewChildren love working alongside adults.

Family fun projects are next!

Children love working alongside adults.

They’re wired to want to help and to mimic what we do. In most things we do in the garden—and in the home—we can find something the children can do to be a part and contribute. Even very young children can dig a hole for a tomato plant, put small seeds like carrot, lettuce or radishes into furrows and then cover them up, and water the garden, even if it’s just to turn on the sprinkler, (and you know what fun that will lead to)!

GardenNerd.com has a great article on gardening for toddlers. Super cute and smart!6)http://gardenerd.com/blog/toddler-garden/

JustForKids Garden Tool Set with Tote

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Herb Gardens

Herbs are a great start if you haven’t planted a garden before. Herbs are basically weeds and will grow no matter what. If the kids step on them they will still grow. I would suggest basil, parsley, lemon balm, and chives. All of these are easy to grow and are easy to use in recipes during the summer and winter. See Planning an Herb Garden article.7)https://gardensall.com/beginners-guide-to-planning-an-herb-garden/

Several years ago we made box gardens with our young grandkid’s. They enjoyed all aspects of the process and when the tomatoes were ripe the wonder in their eyes was remarkable. “Tomatoes don’t come from the store, Grandma?” This remark made it all worth it. Susan Espinoza, freelance writer, homeschool mom of 7.

Winter Gardening fun Indoors

For winter, create an indoor mini garden for a sunny window or under a grow light.Or, something bigger, if your budget allows, like this awesome garden tower composting system.

Winter is also a great time for garden craft projects such as making soap and candles from the dried garden herbs, and cooking and baking using preserved foods from the garden.

For winter crops, such as cabbage, it’s a great time to make homemade sauerkraut, a medicinal staple in our refrigerator, with a new cauldron brewing.8)https://gardensall.com/how-to-make-homemade-sauerkraut/9)https://gardensall.com/ferment-your-cabbage-for-amazing-health-benefits/

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Gardening Cultivates Family and Community

Like Sherri’s parents did, encourage your children to invite and include their friends in gardening fun. Making your garden the place to be helps your kids not feel like they’re missing out if other kids are playing while they’re tending the garden.

Invite your and your kid’s friends over for garden-related crafts, such as making scarecrows and wind foils for the garden, and again when it’s time to make things with dried herbs.

CHILDREN ARE WIRED TO WANT TO HELP. LET THEM.

Many families have cultivated a family weekend past-time of going to the mall. Instead, spend time as a family in the garden, doing crafts inside and in the evening, playing games.

WORKING TOGETHER AND PLAYING TOGETHER KEEPS A FAMILY TOGETHER.

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Let us know what you’re doing in the garden with your kids or grandkids via a comment below or on our Facebook page.10)https://www.facebook.com/gardensall/?fref=ts

Dreaming of spring and secret gardens…

RESOURCES:

Remember to visit KidsGardening.org for more indepth information and tips on getting kids involved in gardening and growing memories that last.11)http://www.kidsgardening.org/garden-activities-start-early-and-end-late-to-beat-the-heat/

Another great program on gardening for kids and schools and gardening lesson plans:
GrowingMinds.org12)http://growing-minds.org/lesson-plans-landing-page/

A Classic Favorite Book on Amazon: The Secret Garden (Classic Starts) by Frances Hodgson Burnett

NatureScapes as Secret Spaces and Magical Places for Children to Connect with Nature

Kids love to have their own secret spots or hangouts where they can spend hours creating imaginary worlds while connecting with nature. You remember, right?

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Structures like willow huts, sunflower houses and bean teepees create natural hideouts for children. Add a willow tunnel and you’ve got endless hours of active, creative fun to engage the kids in imaginative play.

Willow tunnel
Image source unknown. Please contact us if you know the source so we may provide proper attribution: GardensAllSite@gmail.com
Willow Hut, image from LetTheChildrenPlay.net
Willow Hut, image from LetTheChildrenPlay.net

Children love natural play spaces.  Research shows that natural environments are beneficial to children in many ways.

NATURE NURTURES THE SPIRIT
AND STIRS THE IMAGINATION
THROUGH WONDER.

That’s no surprise or news to gardeners. We didn’t need researchers to tell us what we already know, right? But it’s good the schools now know. ?

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“WHEN CHILDREN AND NATURE MIX, SOMETHING MAGICAL HAPPENS – EVERY CHILD DESERVES THAT MAGIC!”

Marghanita Hughes13)http://www.marghanita.com/

Re-imagining and Recreating Natural Outdoor Learning Environments

Play spaces in natural environments include plants, trees, edible gardens, sand, rocks, mud, water and other elements from nature. These spaces invite open-ended interactions, spontaneity, risk-taking, exploration, discovery and connection with nature.14)http://www.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/nqsplp/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/NQS_PLP_E-Newsletter_No59.pdf

Image of willow tunnel with willow teepee growing in the background, from EarthPlay.net
Image of willow tunnel with willow teepee growing in the background, from EarthPlay.net

[Natural play spaces] foster an appreciation of the natural environment, develop environmental awareness and provide a platform for ongoing environmental education.  Belonging, Being and Becoming, The Early Years Learning Framework, 2009.15)https://www.coag.gov.au/sites/default/files/early_years_learning_framework.pdf

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There are many ways to incorporate natural elements into your backyard or playground.

Check out these images from “TeacherTomsBlog.com”, and notice the little raised bed gardens in the background on the right hand side.16)http://teachertomsblog.blogspot.com/2011/06/state-of-art.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TeacherTom+%28Teacher+Tom%29&utm_content=Google+Reader

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Image from TeacherTomsBlogspot.com
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Image from TeacherTomsBlogspot.com

But here’s the most important part of all of this, in our opinion.

BUT… DON’T GO BUILD IT FOR THEM, MOM AND DAD.

Let them build it, build it with them, or help them build it, depending on their age. Just like the garden, let them plant, weed and tend with you. That’s where the learning and confidence are wrought. That’s where the fun is… and when you can do it together, that’s where the joy is too. Times you’ll all remember fondly… forever.17)https://gardensall.com/kids-gardening-and-growing-memories-that-last/

For more images of great ideas in use, visit LetTheChildrenPlay.net.18)http://www.letthechildrenplay.net/2011/06/ideas-for-adding-natural-elements-to.html19)https://gardensall.com/fun-garden-projects-for-children/

And take one minute to smile over this precious video.
Toddlers in nature’s playground. This is just TOO CUTE!


References   [ + ]

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I’m LeAura Alderson, entrepreneur, ideator, media publisher, writer and editor of GardensAll.com. Pursuits in recent years have been more planting seeds of ideas for business growth more than gardening. However, I’ve always been interested in medicinal herbs and getting nutrition and healing from food over pharmacy. As a family we’re eager to dig more deeply into gardening and edible landscape for the love of fresh organic foods and self sustainability. We thoroughly enjoy and appreciate the creative ingenuity of the GardensAll community.