Looking to get your kids connected with something besides a small screen? How about communing with nature in the form of a garden? In this era of satisfaction on demand, watching and waiting for something to grow can be incredibly valuable for kids. It also gives them an excuse to get outside and get a little dirty.
Another plus? Gardening can help picky eaters expand their food horizons. We know kids are more likely to eat food they've helped prepare. The same is true for the food they've helped grow because, of course, they'll want to taste it! Ready to get started? Here's how to get your kids to dig gardening.
Planting seeds in small pots is a simple way to start with young children. It's great for fine motor and sensory development, and it allows them to see their plants grow from the very beginning. Start by getting creative with your containers. Try old cans, egg cartons, sand buckets, old rain boots, or even used juice pouches. Get your kids to brainstorm ideas, too. They may come up with something outside the box! Anything with good drainage will do, and you can poke or drill holes if they aren't already there.
Let Your Kids Help Choose What to Grow
Little ones like being in control, so let them choose what to grow. (As long as they don't choose chocolate chip cookies!) Be sure to include some favorites and introduce a few new possibilities. Lettuce, cucumber, zucchini, and yellow squash all grow well in Utah gardens. Kids love eating snap peas and cherry tomatoes right off the vine (with tomatoes, it's best to plant seedlings rather than starting with seeds). Radishes are quick growers (about a month until the first harvest), and kids love it when the red bulbs pop out of the ground. Pumpkins are a smash among the young gardener set, and they'll be excited to grow their own jack-o'-lanterns for fall.
For children who like flowers, daisies, marigolds, and sunflowers are can't-miss picks. However, if one of yours is squeamish about flying insects, you can plant flowers that don't attract bees. No yard? Grow an indoor garden of succulents, flowers, herbs or air-purifying house plants.
Theme gardens are a fun way to get your kids interested in gardening. How about a pizza garden? No, you can't grow pizza, but you can grow herbs and tomatoes (bonus points if it's a circle divided into wedges with different plants!). Herb gardens are good for beginners because they're easy to
Have Them Water, Care for Their Garden
Teach your kids the importance of watering their plants and how often to do it. Try making it a part of your daily routine, spending a few minutes watering and noticing how the plants are growing and changing. Be sure to keep their tasks age-appropriate and manageable. With older kids, step back as much as possible, and serve as their guide rather than head gardener.
There are many benefits to getting kids interested in gardening. It provides a connection with nature, an understanding of how things grow, and best of all it's pretty tasty come harvest time! It could also turn into a life-long interest and a desire to protect our natural environment.
Jill Sutherland teaches second grade in Centerville, Utah. Growing up on a farm in Oklahoma, she learned valuable lessons about organic farming. She now shares those lessons with her three children who garden and landscape without using harmful chemicals.