Finding meaningful activities to share with the kids in your life can be a challenge. With so many attention-grabbing screens to compete with, it might even be intimidating to suggest something like gardening. But make no mistake! Kids can get every bit as excited about growing plants as they do about a video game or TV show. The secret is to keep things simple, engaging, and — most of all — fun!
Indoor herb gardens are an excellent first choice for kids. Since indoor plots are generally small, you only need basic hand tools and children will have an easier time helping with their care and maintenance. And since these little herb gardens don't have to deal with outdoor perils like insects, frost, or drought, success rates are high. Plus, you don't need a lot of space to make one. A single windowsill is big enough!Don't Skimp on Variety
Agriculture experts are learning more about the importance of crop diversity in the greater ecosystem. An herb garden doesn't have the same concerns as a 10,000-acre operation, but it's still good to grow a variety of different herbs in one garden. Having a diverse selection of plants means that any one issue is unlikely to damage every species. So even if the thyme doesn't make it, the parsley and sage still might. It's also fun for kids to see the differences between the species as they grow.Let Kids Take Their Pick
One of the best ways to get kids engaged in anything is to let them make choices from the start. Herb gardening is no different. Let the children pick out some of the plants you'll be growing. Bring them to the store to pick out seed packets and starter kits. If that sort of trip isn't convenient, you can buy a large selection of seeds and have them make their picks at home. When kids take some ownership of the garden upfront, they'll be more invested and excited as the project moves forward.Make Nutrition a Part of the Plan
Nutrition is an important part of being a healthy, happy adult. Healthy eating habits are one reason Utah ranks high on the quality of life index in the United States. Caring for plants and watching them grow is great, but using the plants you grew in dishes is a fun lesson in healthy eating. Point out the oregano and basil used to make pizza. Have them watch as you add rosemary and thyme to the spaghetti sauce. An herb garden will introduce your kids to the basic concepts of nutrition. And while it can be hard to get kids to explore eating greenery from the store, they're usually thrilled to eat plants they grew themselves.
Kids love doing stuff with their friends. Parents and caretakers looking for a fun playdate idea should not overlook gardening. With plenty of opportunities to learn, play, and be amazed, you'll be surprised just how much mileage you and a few kids can get from a pile of dirt and a few packs of seeds!
Tip: Before a gardening play date, cut up some egg cartons to make small, individual planters. This gives you another project to do together, and it gives your visitors an easy way to take a few potted seeds home with them.
Maria Ivanov is a fitness trainer with a passion for foods — the healthier, the better. With the help of her children, she grows her own vegetables, herbs, and as many fruit trees as she can on a half-acre plot.