Summer is here! Which means it’s time to start gardening. Why not get the kids involved? Gardening is a great way to get kids of the couch and outside learning about responsibility and science. It lets you spend quality time together enjoying the beauty of nature. And you may even find your kids are excited to eat the fruits and veggies they’ve grown. *gasp* But before you break out the trowels and herd the kiddos outside, here’s are a few tips for gardening with kids.
1. Make it an adventure
When I was a kid, my family would plan a Saturday each year to put in our garden. We would go to our local nursery in the morning to buy all our plants. Then we’d spend the rest of the day tilling the soil, planting, and just hanging out. I always loved those days because it felt like an adventure rather than just another Saturday. Plan and set aside a day for your garden adventure. Take the kids to the nursery or garden center with you to pick out plants. Let them explore all the different plants and flowers the nursery has to offer. All the bright colors and wild shapes are fascinating, especially for kids visiting a nursery for the first time. Treat it like something exciting and kids will likely get excited too.
2. Let them choose
Most kids love getting to choose what to buy and being able to call something their own. Let kids chose what they want to grow and you might just find they can’t wait to start planting. Obviously you may want to subtly steer them away from buying some plants. For instance, our local nursery sells ghost chili pepper plants, so I made sure to keep my niece and nephew away from that one. I also recommend encouraging kids to choose a mixture of vegetables, fruits, and flowers so they can enjoy something pretty and something tasty.
3. Fuel up
Gardening is hard work, especially in scorching summer weather. It’s important to make sure kids stay hydrated. Make sure your kids drink plenty of fluids throughout the day. Keep plenty of cold water, sports drinks, and/or juice on hand. Gardening also tends to work up an appetite, so its important to have snacks on hand. Fruit, nuts, granola bars, and pretzels are all great snacks on hot days. Perhaps stop by a grocery store or gas station on your way back from the nursery to pick up a cold drink and treat. A scoop of ice cream after hot day’s gardening doesn’t hurt either. 😉
4. Safety first
Kids are more sensitive to heat than adults. Make sure you shield them from dangerous UV rays with sunscreen and a big, floppy hat. And don’t forget to reapply sunblock throughout the day. Draping a cloth soaked in cold water around your neck is also a good way to cool off. Gardening gloves are also a good tool to have on-hand for kids who don’t like getting dirty. I recommend nitrile dipped gloves with a mesh or breathable fabric. They keep the water out without getting too hot and sweaty. A kneeling pad is also a real lifesaver if you’re planning on spending a lot of time kneeling. Kids’ little knees will certainly appreciate the added cushion. I found this one at World Market for about $7. Most importantly, don’t forget to take breaks every once in a while to cool off in the shade or somewhere with AC.
5. Give them some space
Set aside some space for each child, whether it’s a little patch in a garden bed or a container of their own. Just like with letting kids pick their own plants, kids love having something to call their own. Plus if you’re gardening with more than one kid, it cuts down on territorial disputes. Not that my niece and nephew ever bicker about things like that… *ahem* Use garden markers or labels to mark out their own little gardens or paint their names on their containers.
6. Get artsy
Adding a dash of arts and crafts is another great way to get kids excited about gardening. You can find hundreds of gardening arts and crafts projects for kids of all ages on Pinterest. The only prep work I did for this project was to paint large popsicle sticks bright colors. Then I gave my niece and nephew paint pens to write the names of their plants and/or decorate their sticks. I recommend saving the plastic tags that often come with plant starts. You can cut out the pictures and glue them on your markers. This is especially handy for kids who can’t write yet.
7. Be patient
Let’s face it: gardening isn’t for everyone. And it certainly isn’t easy. And no matter how much you try, things will never go 100% according to plan. Kids will lose interest, get tired, make mistakes, or perhaps just dislike gardening altogether. You’ll probably end up doing most of the dirty work. And you might have to make a couple trips to the nursery to replace a few dead plants. Just take it with a grain of salt and chalk it up as a learning experience.
Do you have any other tips for gardening with kid? Let me know in the comments. If you liked this post, please share it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.