Three Reasons to Garden with Your Children:
It’s so important to spend time outside in the garden with your children. Whether it’s structured time or exploring on their own, your child will find ways to connect with nature.
Getting outside means your child will be enjoying the fresh air and have plenty of exercise. Give your children tools such as a small trowel to use in the garden that encourage them to use levering skills. Hand them a magnifying glass to check for insects or other interesting things they may find. Children love to dig in the soil. Plant some potatoes with your child in early spring in a raised bed or container. When the plants mature and flower they are almost ready to harvest. This is when the fun begins. Harvesting potatoes means digging with a small shovel to unearth buried treasure. In all my years of harvesting, every child has been in awe of the simple discovery of something growing under the soil. They think its magic and it truly is. Seeds are the miracle of the garden.
2. Learning in the garden with children:
Have your child pile all his potatoes in a basket so he can see his harvest. Think about bringing a kitchen scale outside so you can weigh the potatoes together. Count the number of potatoes harvested to practice counting skills. Talk about the difference in the colour of the different types of potatoes. When we unearthed a red potato, my grandson called it his pink potato. You can use white, yellow, brown, red and blue potatoes for your planting to add extra colours for learning. Think about pulling up one plant to examine the root structure of the plant together. Look for baby potatoes still attached to the roots. These could be saved for seed the next year. If you are looking for insects, watch that your child handles them carefully or leaves them in the garden to watch. Talk about how many legs, eyes or antennae your insect has. Perhaps its a slug and has no legs. Explain the difference between insects, bugs and mollusks. Learning is endless in the garden and can be studied over the different seasons. Ask you child why they think leaves turn red. If you need to go look for the answer this may lead to a new school project for both of you.
3. Respecting nature while learning about the senses:
Each child examines the garden in different ways. Older children may want to dig all day and look for insects or harvest vegetables, berries or flowers. Younger children may be just learning about the garden so let them explore it on their own. Here my grandson is walking through the dahlias taking great care to walk in between each plant. He is showing care for nature with each step. In the garden your child can study the colours, watch for pollinating insects and take in the sounds and smells of the garden. Encourage them to smell the plants and discuss the results. If you have a food garden, choose something to harvest for a tasting party.
You have to wonder what a two year old’s mind is thinking as he carefully touches the flowers. At this age he may only spend a few minutes in each area depending on his attention span. Every child needs to be outside and the garden is such a welcoming place. It’s full of smells, colours, tactile plants and insects just waiting to be discovered!
For more ideas on children’s garden projects you may want to read my “31 Days of Gardening with Children.”