Involving Your Children in Your Gardening Efforts

For those with newborns and young toddlers, we apologize.  It’s tough to involve tiny ones without having them consume handfuls of dirt or pull new plants out of the ground.  But they can be plunked into a sling or onto a blanket and admire your handiwork as you cultivate a table garden.  And your older children will benefit from all the ideas in today’s post.

Caitlin Blethlen, works with the Youth Gardening division of Growing Gardens, an innovative non-profit that supports urban gardening for low income families.  She has all sorts of tricks and tips for involving children in your backyard farming efforts.  

GBG: Do you have any tips on how to get children involved in the gardening process?

Caitlin: Get your child(ren) involved in dreaming and planning the garden too. One fun activity is to look through a seed catalog together and cut out pictures of what you would like to grow. Consider growing both what you and your child like to eat, and what you haven’t tried yet. Sometimes it is fun to plan a themed garden such as a pizza, salsa or salad garden by growing the main ingredients. Draw an outline of your garden space and glue the photos or draw pictures of where your plants will grow. Remember children are more likely to eat vegetables they participate in growing!

For a quick and exciting project, have your child(ren) plant radish seeds in the garden beginning in early March through June. Radishes grow quickly and are very satisfying. Also, if you have very young children larger seeds such as peas, cucumbers, beans, sunflowers and nasturtiums will be easier for them to handle than the smaller seeds like lettuce or carrots.

Another exciting project is to use a plastic bottle (such as a soda bottle) to grow a micro-garden. Cut off the neck of the bottle and fill it with planting compost. Then have your child plant several different types of seeds in the soil, making sure to plant some near the outside of the bottle. Next water the soil and set in a sunny window sill.  Watch the roots begin to form and seeds to unfurl.

Bean teepees and sunflower arches are a fun way to make inviting living forts for your children. These structures can be constructed out of bamboo poles, sticks or PVC pipe. Have your child plant climbing pole beans like scarlet runners and/or tall sunflowers at the base of the trellis.

Most children LOVE worms, consider creating a worm bin to turn your kitchen scraps into wonderful compost for your garden.  If you live in the Portland, Oregon, area, attend a Growing Garden’s Parent/Child workshop for more ideas.

Comments

  1. those are great tips! we’ve been trying to get our kids more involved with the gardening so they don’t get bored and start complaining.

  2. I had to laugh when I saw today’s topic–I tried to get my almost-3-year-old to help me plant veggie seeds in pots yesterday. He loves digging in the dirt and happily filled the pots for me, but was very upset when I stopped him from dumping them out again! I tried to explain that we were going to grow our own zucchini for zucchini muffins (one of his favorite snacks) but I don’t think he’s quite ready to grasp that concept yet. Hopefully by next year he’ll be old enough that I can use some of these great tips!

  3. love the tips. my daughters easter basket was full of her own garden tools cause she loves to do what mommy is doing!!

  4. We have 2 littles, one 2 1/2 and one only 9 months… it has been tough trying to garden with them – especially the 9 month old who LOVES to eat dirt. We thought he’d get a mouthful and realize it’s not yummy… but we were wrong.

    Our 2 1/2 year old likes playing in the dirt, watering things, helping plant starts, etc. but has no concept of leaving dirt alone where we’ve planted seeds… he’s torn up our bean bed and the watermelons. We decided for this year we’re just going to buy starts (we would love to start our own seeds but have no space for all that involves) then he’ll have a more visual reminder that he needs to leave things alone. We chose fun purple string beans, strawberries, raspberries, yellow pear and red cherry tomatoes, pumpkins and brussel sprouts to help keep the kids’ interest along with all the stuff we love like cucumbers, heirloom and roma tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, and zucchini.

    It’s our first year doing a large scale garden (6 – 3×6 foot raised beds in our front yard) so we’re trying to be easy on ourselves and realize this is a learning year, trying to figure out what to plant, when, how much etc. We LOVE canning and are hoping or bumper crops of tomatoes, beans and cucumbers… but we’ll just have to wait and see.

  5. Hydroponics really is one of the most enjoyable hobbies someone can take up. It’s like magic watching your sprouts grow into fully mature plants so fast. Newbies and veterans can surely take away some good information from this.

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