Gardening with kids can be a fun way to spend time together, while also being productive, reconnecting with nature and getting some vitamin D from the sunshine. Additionally, working in the garden has fantastic benefits for supporting their microbiome and gut health, allowing them to build up a strong gut that will help protect against disease and illness. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not easy. Making a habit out of gardening with your children requires a ton of patience (and I don’t have a lot of that to begin with). However, there are some good approaches that can help make it a fun and enjoyable tradition for everyone in the family.
Benefits of Gardening With Kids
- Develop your family’s eating habits: Your kids will be more excited about eating fruits and vegetables when they’ve actually had a hand in the growing process. The anticipation of harvesting after they’ve painstakingly watered, weeded, and waited for the time to be right will make them more likely to try new foods that they might have otherwise turned their noses up at.
- Become more environmentally conscious: While evolving technology has amazing benefits, the constant TV watching, video gaming, and surfing the internet keeps too many kids today indoors. They’re not getting any of the benefits of playing outside, getting messy, and absorbing sunlight anymore. Working in the dirt with plants and insects is a valuable way to learn about life cycles other than ours, and that teaches appreciation for plants and how they provide for us.
- Reinforce a sense of gratitude: It’s easy to forget all the effort that goes into producing the food we eat if we just order it online or pick it up at the store. Our society is so automated, many time we can even have our groceries delivered (guilty). So even a small step into gardening with kids can help them to be more appreciative of how much work goes into the food they (endlessly) eat.
- Be more physically active: Kids today are so much less active than they were in prior generations. These sedentary lifestyles are putting our kids at risk for becoming overweight, developing type 2 diabetes, and a life of suffering from chronic illness. Planting and weeding are great ways to include more activity in the kids daily lives (and they help keep the gut healthy!).
Gardening With Younger Children
- Let kids assume ownership. Small children will need guidance and instruction but let them take a leadership role. They can help select the plants they want to grow and the tasks they like the best. Pulling weeds is a great job for small hands!
- Build self esteem. Providing lots of praise and positive feedback as they gradually assume more responsibility over time helps them to have more confidence in themselves.
- Keep it simple. Break tasks down into individual steps that your child can understand. Encourage them to select plants that will be easy to grow. Most beans thrive with little care. Plus, they’re nutritional powerhouses and the big seeds make them a cinch for kids to handle.
- Teach patience. We live in a world with instant gratification, where patience is becoming rarer by the day. Gardening with kids shows them to appreciate the fruits of your labor, even when it doesn’t happen right away.
- Make it educational. Use your garden to teach everything from science to poetry. In our homeschooling, gardening is a big part of teaching various different subjects. You can talk about how weather affects plants and recite poems about flowers.
- Play it safe. Children are especially vulnerable to pathogens, so be sure to wear gloves and make a habit of washing hands regularly afterward. Make it a rule that the kids need to ask an adult for approval before they eat any plant. Avoid gardening with dangerous chemicals and be careful with sharp tools.
- Have fun. Encourage your kids to invite friends over to help. Unusual varieties of plants can be amusing, so shop around for fun seeds to get a crop of foot long carrots, miniature pumpkins, or purple tomatoes.
Gardening with Tweens and Teens
- Let older kids guide younger ones. Middle school and high school students can be great role models and instructors for small children. The interaction is inspiring and gratifying for both sides, and it helps build responsibility for the older kiddos.
- Challenge veteran gardeners to set new goals. Horticulture will become a way of life for many kids who have the benefit of early exposure. Keep it stimulating by supporting them in developing new skills.
- Go gently with new gardeners. If your teen is new to gardening, they may feel tentative about doing anything that would make them seem different from their peers. Until there’s a reality show or video game to make growing plants officially cool, tread carefully.
- You might want to start with herb gardens. They’re easy and practical and can even be kept indoors.
Gardening with kids has the ability to strengthen your relationship and may even help you cut down on grocery bills. Help your kids get an early start on appreciating all that nature can offer, and draw your family closer together with these timeless traditions.
Do you include your children in your gardening chores?