Ten Easy Ideas for Getting Your Children into the Garden

Our sloping backyard is full of lilies, winding paths, and decorative rocks without any space for swings or a trampoline. In the past my kids have found it hard to run spend hours in the garden without breaking into whining fits.

This summer, a few simple tricks have changed the entire dynamic.
Involving Kids in the garden
Adopting a plant: The kids each got to select a few special flowers and one apple tree each from a nursery this spring. They helped with transplanting the new additions and have been very excited about watering and watching as blooms appear. Sometimes just asking them to go check on their plant is enough to get them outside, where they become distracted enough by blue jays and beetles to stay outside. (The picture above is from four years ago when my son was happy to drag his monster trucks through the garden for hours.)

Hunting for treasure: At thrift stores I pick up loads of colorful marbles or trickets and then hide them all over the back yard. The kids spend extended periods of time searching for loot (each having their own territory to avoid turf wars) and then hang out on the deck comparing and trading their treasures. When they later forget about said loot, I collect it from the corners of their bedroom and hold another treasure hunt!

Picnicking with popsicles: Sometimes just offering them a home blended popsicle (full of hidden vegetables and healthy fruits) is enough to get them out in the backyard.
Fairy House
Building fairy houses: Gathering up moss, twigs, and tiny flowers for fairy domiciles is something that can capture my children’s attention for hours. One house can easily start a fairy sub-development, which means that I get more time to garden!
A child's garden spot
Making a personalized garden spot: As you can see, at our old house, my son’s favorite spot was always in a tree. I haven’t done this yet at our new house, but am planning on letting each of my kids pick a special place in the garden that they can make their own. We can put down a stepping stone for them to sit on, ring it with the shells we collect from the beach at Grandma’s house, and finish by planting some of their favorites nearby. I would be happily willing to put cheezy gnomes, dragonflies or other such garden art if it meant they were excited about their garden spot.

Running through the sprinkler: Okay…this actually might not work in my garden, since the kids may have to hurdle over day lilies to get a good pace up, but maybe this will be possible someday!

Blowing bubbles: A classic! Use a homemade bubble solution recipe to make your own stuff. It’s such an obvious idea that I often forget it!

Moving worms: I know this sounds slightly weird, but my kids love digging in dirt, finding worms, and then moving them to their favorite plants. Since they know worms help break up soil and make room for roots to grow, they are certain that this is hugely beneficial to their adopted plants. (I’m not sure it’s beneficial for the worms…)
Bug scavenger hunt
Doing a bug scavenger hunt: This doesn’t have to be sophisticated, but giving young children a list of four different bugs and letting them search under rocks and bushes can take a very long time. (Again, this translates to hours of watering/weed pulling) Also, no bugs have to be caught and kept in glass jars…only to die tragic deaths later on when we all forget about them.
Sweet peas
Eating straight out of the garden: I don’t expect to get a harvest of sweet peas, blueberries, strawberries, or raspberries, because I know they’ll be consumed before they ever make it to the kitchen. It is a thrill for my kids to literally eat the fruits of their labors and wonder at how much better garden food tastes than anything we buy in the store. That’s enough to get them back out there next spring!

Have you make a science out of getting your kids involved in gardening? What other tips do you have to help get your people in the garden for hours on end?

Comments

  1. My first graders have fun with a simple garden project in my classroom. Each student fills a latex glove about halfway with soil, pokes a few seeds (bean, sunflower, and pumpkin are a good size) in the soil, and adds some water. Then I either hang the glove from a line with a clothes pin or slip a piece of clear packing tape in one side and tape it to the window. Within a few days, the kids can see roots starting to travel down and a shoot growing up! The plants will grow right out of the top of the glove. Some kids take them home and put them in their own gardens.

  2. What a great idea Nancy! I just might have to try that at home!

  3. Bubbles and sidewalk chalk are always good for a quick distraction. And kid-sized gardening tools.

    We had the opposite yard transition. Our last house had a sloping front yard filled with plants, and our current yard is flat with grass. While I do admire those lawn-free yards, I have to admit that it’s nice to have a grassy area for kids to play on.

  4. I really agree with the comments, it’s very comforting to know that our children can have fun and learn from nature. Of course, all this accompanied by a care environment such as parks and gardens of the houses, where parents to be taking care of them so they can not put something dirty mouth.

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