Today I’d like to talk about some easy ways to garden with kids. I’ve been doing a lot of gardening with my 3-year-old daughter, Maya, and she and I have been having loads of fun! So far, we’ve started seeds indoors and out, tried out some of the new, fun grow kits for kids and even planted some Flower Carpet® roses together.
At first, I thought she’d more interested in her usual dismembering of Barbies than in gardening. But she actually loves it! I think for her, it’s about feeling and being treated like an equal. For instance, she got to bring a few dollars in her purse to the garden store, where she got to pick out her own seed packets and a few colorful plants. Then she got to mush the dirt and water with her hands in a mixing bowl, then pour on the seeds – no coercion needed there. After that, she was given special maintenance responsibilities like watering and fertilizing. Plus, there’s the feeling of ownership, accomplishment and success that helps to build self-esteem. Maya loves checking on her kid-height windowsill herb garden or going out to the deck to visit her strawberry grow pot or Daisy princess planter.
Gardening is also a great way to teach kids how to nurture and take responsibility for something without having to preach at them. And, of course, it’s a wonderful way to build and celebrate your child’s strengths or work on something that may be a challenge. Your little budding artist may love picking out colors and putting them together, while your little scientist might enjoy learning all the plants’ names, smells and particular requirements.
1) Have fun with grow kits
Grow kits, especially those specially designed for kids, are everywhere these days, from big-box retailers to mom-and-pop garden stores. I’ve personally seen them in CVS, Home Depot, supermarkets and Target and am quite sure you’ll find them just about anywhere you look. I’m guessing they’re so popular because you’ve got everything you need with just one purchase. No extra trip out for potting soil, seeds or just the right-sized pot. It’s the perfect all-in-one product for a short, focused activity for kids. Pictured above are the Buzzy Brand “My First Tomato Grow Kit” and “My First Sunflower Kit.”
2) Create a sensory garden
Kids love anything that engages the senses. Help them explore with some of the following plants or ideas. Just make sure the kids know that not all plants are safe to touch or eat.
Hearing: Rattlesnake grass, greater quaking grass, love in a mist (rattling seedheads), miscanthus oligostachys ‘Nanus Variegatus,’ Bamboo phyllostachys, animated oats. You can also find plenty of inexpensive water fountain kits. Or windchimes or Zen raincatchers. Or install a bird feeder to attract songbirds.
Seeing: Balloon flowers, red hot pokers, Jacob’s ladder, chameleon plant (invasive! grow in pot!) gigantic grasses, colorful heucheras, Chinese lanterns, poppies, wildflower meadowmix, cornflower, purple carrots, Super bright colors can be found in marigolds, cannas, roses, phormiums, dahlias, Russian sage, purple sage, lady’s mantle, colorful ribbons hanging from trees to catch in the wind, weather vanes, tile mosaics, zinnias and swiss chard ‘Bright Lights’. Also try large flowers and veggies that grow quickly, like sunflowers and pumpkins.
Tasting: Don’t forget to plant some edibles! Berries, cherry tomatoes, melons and pumpkins are usually a hit with little ones. So are theme edibles, for salad, salsa, pizza and more! Of course, there’s also a whole garden of vegetables to choose from (they might not eat them, but might enjoy growing them) stevia (sweet like sugar), salad burnet (tastes like cucumber), mints (invasive! grow only in pots!) anise, fennel, oregano or curry plant. You can also grow some peppery nasturtium for salads, some violas for garnishing a lemonade. Other off-the-beaten-path edibles include rose petals, zucchini blooms, lavender and even daylily petals! There are a number of games you can play with kids, getting them to guess which taste goes with which plant and so on.
Feeling: asparagus fern, lamb’s ear, silver sage, Scotch broom, Jerusalem sage, prickly bull thistle, globe thistle, teasel, hedge woundwort, conifers, hops, yarrow, gayfeather, coneflowers, play bark, sempervivums (hens and chicks), African sundew, ornamental grasses, astilbe, smooth and rough stones, small ponds or fountains, soft lichens and mosses, stepping stones, statues (especially characters or animals), latticework or bamboo fencing.
Smelling: scented geraniums, roses, sages (there are all kinds that have cool smells like pineapple, mint chocolate and lemon), lemon verbena, lavender, rosemary, thyme, basil, marjoram, bronze fennel (also good for feeling), dill, and garlic chives.
3) Start a windowsill garden
You can take the child out shopping, so they can pick out the seeds themselves. Or, FamilyFun.com has some great ideas for themed windowsill gardens using succulents and corn.
4) Build a Garden Teepee
Some plants prefer to climb up teepees or trellises (photo above courtesy of the blog Growing Great Kids). So plant some scarlet runner beans, peas or morning glories and watch them grow up, up, up. Teepees also make great hiding and play spots for kids. eHow.com has some wonderful directions for building a garden teepee.
5) Plant their name in marigolds
Marigolds are ideal because they’re short, brightly colored, fast-growing and compact. You can either plant the seeds or buy the plants from a garden center.
So tell me, what kind of gardening activities have you tried with kids? Post a comment, and let me know!