According to a study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation in 2010, children between the ages of 8 and 18 spend up to 7 ½ hours per day on devices such as a smartphone, computer, television or other electronic gadgets. Many children are spending little to no time outdoors, becoming virtually desensitized to a world outside of an electronic screen. The study also found that extreme media use has been associated with several negative occurrences including behavior problems and lower grades.
It is now, more than ever, of vital importance to get our children out of the house and into the garden. By teaching children from a young age how to tend to their own gardens and grow their own food we are instilling lifelong, notable values in them. Apart from being fun, gardening is also educational and teaches children a variety of new skills such as responsibility, patience, creativity and above all, a love for nature.
Just Have Fun
By far the most important tip in getting kids interested in gardening is to make it look like fun. Kids aren’t generally too interested in weeding but they love watering, planting and especially harvesting vegetables or picking flowers for the house. Especially when starting out, allow the kids to do all the fun activities while you do the tedious tasks.
Quick results will keep kids interested
Children are generally impatient and will lose interest in gardening very fast if they don’t see results. Make sure to plant some fast-sprouting seeds such as radish or cress, which generally germinate after a day or two. The sheer excitement of seeing their new ‘babies’ will keep the children interested in gardening long enough to tackle some long-term projects. A yucca plant will make for a great long-term project as they can be grown either indoors or outside and yucca plant care can easily be explained to and engaged in by children.
Allow children to garden in their own space
Kids will have a lot more fun gardening if they are allowed to do it in their own space. Assign a separate garden bed to them and allow them to grow their own plants and to decorate the bed how they want. It is best to start with easy-growing flowers or vegetables that do not require a lot of special care. The excitement sense of achievement once the plants start to grow will be priceless!
Start with a small project
It is important to remain realistic when gardening with children. As much as you would love to have glorious gardens it is simply not practical when you want to keep young minds occupied. Aim to start small by planting a few tomatoes or strawberries in a pot. You can even start by growing vegetable tops on a saucer of water or even beans in between pieces of wet cotton wool.
Gardening isn’t limited to growing plants and children will thoroughly enjoy other gardening-related projects such as making bird feeders, rock animals or even scarecrows. The younger children can paint the rocks in lovely bright colours while the older ones can paint the names of the plants on them. There are countless ideas for DIY garden crafts for kids available and you are bound to have just as much fun as the children doing them.
Get some kiddies gardening tools
Not only do size-appropriate gardening tools make all the difference in terms of ease-of-use but it will also create a lot of excitement amongst the children if they are able to use their own tools. Gloves that fit snugly are especially important as it can be very difficult to work with ones that are too big. Large watering cans will be too heavy, especially for the smaller children, rather buy a small plastic one or use a bottle top waterer.
Reuse and recycle
While getting the children interested in gardening you can teach them fun ways in which to recycle household junk. ‘Junk gardening’ is becoming very popular and requires nothing more than reusable junk items and loads of creativity. Old kettle BBQ’s make great herb gardens and painted tins are ideal for planting strawberries or petunias. The possibilities are endless when it comes to using recycled objects in the garden and it will teach children a lot about the importance of sustainability.
Gardening is a healthy and fun activity for children of all ages and can involve many activities that will be of interest to children such as planting and harvesting. It is important to ensure that your garden is safe and suitable for children with regards to equipment, fences and pathways. Children will learn a lot by spending time in the garden and you can, in turn, learn a lot by experiencing gardening through the eyes of a child.