Spring is here, and we are excited to start spending more time outside! Now is the time of year when we start thinking of the flowers, vegetables and herbs that will soon be popping up in backyard gardens and patio containers — and how we can get our children involved in the fun of cultivating plants.
There are a lot of great reasons to start gardening with kids. Not only is it good clean (well, dirty) fun in the sun, it can help them develop an understanding of where their food comes from — and the work that goes into growing it. Picky eaters may be more interested in trying new foods when they have helped cultivate the veggies themselves, too! Gardening is also a wonderful way to practice patience, since we can’t control how quickly our plants grow. And it’s a great exercise in caretaking and responsibility.
Picking Your Plants
When gardening with kids, it’s a good idea to include at least a couple of plants that will grow quickly and require little in the way of special care. To keep enthusiasm high, consider steering your first-time growers toward low-maintenance vegetables like beans, snow peas, radishes, salad greens and compact cucumbers. Marigolds and nasturtiums are quick and easy flowers (nasturtiums and some varieties of marigold are edible, too!).
Plant A Rainbow
Kids who are reluctant to try new foods or eat vegetables may be more interested in food they have grown themselves, especially if they appear in unusual colors! Consider picking out varieties that are less common in the grocery store, like purple and orange cauliflower, yellow and purple string beans, pink pumpkins, rainbow radishes and carrots, or miniatures like bite-sized “cucamelon” gherkins.
Their Own Garden
Enthusiastic little gardeners will probably take some time to learn how to care for plants, how to identify weeds, and how to be gentle. To help them develop these skills, consider setting aside a small plot or container that’s entirely theirs. Let them pick what they want to grow and be responsible for nurturing their own plants with your help. They will enjoy the independence, and you’ll be able to relax and let them tend to their gardens while you tend to yours.
Grow Through What You Go Through
Every gardener has had some disappointments — a cold summer, a crop that just won’t grow, or a pest problem — and your little grower may encounter some, too. As much as we want to insulate our children from these letdowns, they present a perfect opportunity for children to practice learning from failure. Help them walk through some questions about what happened, what might have caused it, and what they could try to fix it or prevent it from happening again. Learning to grow through failure is a quality that helps kids become more resilient in the face of adversity!
What will you plant with your little gardeners this spring?